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Each year graduation is an exciting day for all involved and this year’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences graduation was no exception.  As the traditional song, Pomp and Circumstance pervaded through the auditorium, SoMAS’ 85 graduating students streamed into the Student Activities Center to receive their degrees.  Proud parents, grandparents, siblings, spouses, family and friends filled the auditorium to its maximum capacity; all there to cheer on the graduating students.  Dean Minghua Zhang welcomed everyone and in his opening remarks, encouraged the students while searching for their place in the world to find work that also brings enjoyment and a sense of fulfillment.

Ceremonies began with the awarding of the undergraduate certificates by Dr. Brian Colle and Dr. Kamazima Lwiza.  The Stony Brook Alumni Association Dean’s Choice Awards were then presented by Mr. Robert Stafford, Vice President of the Alumni Association.  Recipients of the Dean’s Choice Awards are students in each of our majors who have the highest grade point average.  The award recipients were Hyung-Bo Kim (Atmospheric Sciences), Anne Liberti & Dylan Smith (Environmental Studies), Tyler Abruzzo (Marine Sciences), and Anna Hollembeak (Marine Vertebrate Biology).

Dean Zhang then gave special recognition to students who received Undergraduate Honors; they were Erica Cirino, Anna Hollembeak, Megan Ladds, Cara Lin and Bianca Santos.

At this point of time in the program, Memorial Awards were given out. Each award represents a very special individual who has passed away but left their mark on SoMAS.  These awards have been established to memorialize them and to also ensure that their work continues.  Dr. Sultan Hameed presented the Petra M. Udelohofen Memorial Scholarship Award to Breanna Zavadoff, the Timothy Magnussen Memorial Scholarship Awards to Charles Burgin and Michael Colbert, followed by the Xiangding Wu Memorial Award given to Xin Zhou.  Dr. Qingzhi Zhu presented the Nuria Protopopescu  Memorial Scholorship Award to Konstantine Rountos.

Dr. Anne McElroy then presented The Pikitch Family Endowed Student Research Award to Natasha Gownaris.

This year’s Commencement Address was given by Dr. David Conover.  As former Dean of SoMAS, Dr. Conover has a special interest in our graduates and was honored to have been asked to give the Commencement Address.  He congratulated the students and gave special recognition to the parents and loved ones who supported the students in their scholastic journey thus far.  He spoke about the troubling times our planet is facing, a warmer climate, our atmosphere contains a tiny bit more CO2, our glaciers continue to shrink ever so slightly, sea level rise just a little and our oceans are getting more acidic.  However Dr. Conover expressed optimism; he has faith that our newest graduates will leave their mark and make the world a better place for having been a part of it.  Whether they begin their careers as scientists in the private sector, work for the government or join the academic community, he believes that each graduate will use the knowledge they have learned at Stony Brook to find solutions to the plethora of quandaries that arise.

Following the Commencement Address, Master of Arts in Marine Conservation and Policy Certificates were presented by Dr. Lesley Thorne to Sarah Bailey, Terra Dunlop, Amanda Eplett, Nicholas Hernandez, Sara Hugentobler, Rebecca Kusa, Kimberly Lamiroult, Alexa Peredo, Christie Pfoertner, Thomas Pratt, Marissa Regad, Lauren Rosella and Carolyn Sukowski.

Ceremonies concluded with Dr. Anne McElroy presenting  Master‘s Degrees to Michael Layer, Nicolas Leonardo, Christopher Murray, Amana Pratt, Amy Pritt, Lindsay Roupe, Jessica Steve and Michael White.   Doctorates degrees were given to Peter Alpert, Ruth Coffey, Keith Dunton, Theresa Hattenrath, Christopher Martinez, Konstantine Rountos and Ewelina Rubin.  Dr. McElroy then presented the Best M.S. Thesis Award to Alex Malvezzi and Best PhD. Dissertation Award to Peter Alpert.

Graduation is the epitome of a bittersweet celebration, not only for the students, but for their families and professors/mentors/advisors as well.  For the students, the day symbolizes the culmination of years of hard work, study and dedication while it also brings reflection on the fun and friendships made along the way.  For parents, it brings a sense of pride for their son or daughter’s achievements, however, it also brings the reality that as their child takes one step into the “real world” they will be taking one step further from the nest .  Professors too beam with pride because the student’s accomplishments are theirs as well.  It’s proof that their vast knowledge has been infused into yet another generation.

The faculty and staff of SoMAS congratulate each student on this very important milestone in their life – best wishes to all of you!  Be happy, be successful!  We will miss you!

Photos by Kurt Bretsch

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