Thousands packed the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on May 24 to celebrate and honor the more than 1,100 graduates who are part of the SUNY Old Westbury Class of 2023. The College’s 57th Commencement ceremony – and its last before rising to university status on July 1 – was filled with inspired speeches and celebrations.
For the graduates, the ceremony honored college careers that spanned times of optimism, uncertainty and then renewal post-pandemic. Now, as the class departs SUNY Old Westbury, they begin new adventures ready to embark on the next chapter of their lives. SUNY Old Westbury President Timothy E. Sams charged them with being champions of the campus’ mission to create a more just, sustainable world.
“Class of 2023, we built you to do something special and consequential in a world that is in desperate need of your courage and subsequently your legacy,” said President Timothy E. Sams. “Let me remind you that legacy is not about titles or status, but rather it is about the good that you do. We expect you to own your future in such a way that you ‘burst down the closet doors’ once and for all, and usher in a kinder world.”
Distinguished Service Professor Emerita Laura Anker addressed the graduates. After remarking on her 44-year career at the institution, from which she retired in August 2022, Anker spoke to the experiences she witnessed as students remained committed to their education.
“Many of you here today are the first generation in your families to graduate from college overcoming impossible odds; some of you are immigrants who persevered despite policies that threatened family members with deportation and undermined your ability to stay in college,” she said. “But you were not deterred, you made it. Most of you worked, some too many hours, at jobs to contribute to your families and help pay for your education. Your graduation itself challenges the widening economic and racial divide in American society.”
Anker continued: “You, the Old Westbury graduating class of 2023, make this a time of great hope and optimism for a better future. The unique diversity of Old Westbury has enriched your classrooms and challenged all of you to listen more fully, reflect more deeply, think more critically, decide more ethically, care more intensely, love more broadly and act more courageously and compassionately in everything you do.”
Kimberly Cox, outgoing president of the Student Government Association who earned a B.A. in Psychology, asked her fellow graduates to remember all those who supported them in their endeavors and to look ahead to a promising future.
“As I think back to my four years on Old Westbury's campus, I think about the homey feel our community has given us, I think about the family and friends that we have all gained,” she said. “Class of 2023, my fellow grads, my family we did it! I can’t wait to see what’s next for us.”