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Press Release


Stony Brook University Celebrates 15th Annual Winter Commencement

Dec 21, 2012 - 5:00:00 PM

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The Stony Brook University 15th Annual Winter Commencement
STONY BROOK, NY, December 21, 2012 – Nearly 2,200 students received a degree and became Stony Brook University’s newest alumni at the 15th annual Winter Commencement ceremony held today in the Pritchard Gymnasium located in the Intercollegiate Athletic Sports Complex. They join more than 150,000 predecessors world-wide whose lives and work personify the Stony Brook University mission.

Due to the ongoing renovation of the Sports Arena, this year’s commencement was held as two events; one for students from the College of Arts and Sciences and another for all other students. Degrees were conferred upon graduates who completed their degree requirements during any one of the following semesters: Summer 2012; Fall 2012; and, Winter 2013. In total, 2,197 students received degrees, including 1,053 Bachelor degrees, 776 Masters degrees, 217 Doctoral degrees and 151 Certificate recipients.

"You are graduating at an extraordinary time for our country and the world,” Stony Brook University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., MD, told the graduates. “We face tremendous challenges, but also tremendous opportunities; and I
Michael Tonge, BA, Political Science
am convinced more and more every day that you and Stony Brook University are absolutely at the right place and the right time to make a positive difference in these difficult times.”

President Stanley highlighted five personal stories of adversity and achievement at the ceremonies. He recognized Amy Pope (Psychology), 23, a resident of Long Beach, NY, who lost her home, car and all her possessions in Superstorm Sandy; Michael Tonge (Political Science), 23, of Harlem, NY, who endured the adversity of attending 12 different public schools in 12 years and went on to become the first of his seven siblings to graduate from college; Terence Coyle (Masters in Social Work), 54, from Huntington, NY, a retired FDNY member suffering from the effects of spinal injuries and multiple surgeries, who went back to school to attain the skills and training necessary to begin a second career with the goal of helping people and striving for positive social change; Kyle Essington (Business Management), 22, of Chino Hills, CA, who was the starting quarterback for the football team this year (2012) and most of the 2011 season. Kyle’s story is one of hard work and making the most of opportunities, leading the Seawolves to consecutive Big South titles (fourth straight overall) and two appearances in the Division I Football Championship playoffs, successfully balancing academics and athletics to earn accolades in both; and also recognized Poornima Peiris (Engineering), 23, of Cutchogue, NY, a student that emigrated from Sri Lanka with her family
Amy Pope, BA, Psychology
when she was just 12 years old. Growing up on the east end, she found herself immersed in a whole new culture. Today, she is the first person in her extended family to receive a college degree.

“Stony Brook graduates are among the most successful of any public university in finding employment after graduation or continuing to graduate school,” said President Stanley. “I pledge that we will work to improve your prospects even more by increasing the value of your degree as we move toward our goal of being one of the 25 best public universities in the world.”

Student Reflections
Deniz Gezlev, BA, Sociology major/International Studies minor, 22, a resident of Massapequa, NY, is the first member of her family to graduate college. She was also one of the many students affected by Superstorm Sandy (nearly 4,000 were identified and reached out to by the University); she lost the first floor of her family home and her possessions in the devastation. Her story prior to Sandy is similar to many stories of college students who are trying to find their niche. She worked part time jobs and some overnight shifts to help pay for school and changed majors a number of times. She even changed colleges – four total at five different times – until she found her home at Stony Brook where she flourished and had the opportunity to study abroad in Italy for a semester. “Through all the rough days of trying to come to this day, I finally accomplished it,” said Deniz. “I can see the bright sunshine at the end of the tunnel and I look forward to the new and amazing things to come.”

Deniz Gezlev, BA, Sociology
Opeyemi Ajibade, MA, Basic Science, 25, a resident of Brooklyn, NY, is the eighth member of her extended family (two sisters, three cousins and two cousins by marriage) to graduate from Stony Brook University. She is the daughter of two registered nurses with dreams of attending medical school. “Throughout my life, I witnessed the joy that my parents had in providing care for the sick and injured as registered nurses,” Opeyemi said. “In pursuit of the same joy, career fulfillment and desire to make a difference in the lives of the sick and injured, my dream is to become the first physician in my family.” She is graduating with a Master of Science in Basic Sciences with a concentration in Physiology and Biophysics. She hopes to attend medical school in the future.

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© Stony Brook University 2013

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