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Morrisville State marks its 101st commencement

MORRISVILLE, N.Y. —A sea of green decorated the Morrisville State College recreation center during the college’s 101st commencement exercises held today.

Graduates donned green caps and gowns and celebrated alongside family and friends amid a stage adorned with a lavish display of flowers, grown by students in the college’s horticulture program and arranged by graduating seniors from the program.

Dr. Bjong Wolf Yeigh, officer-in-charge, was joined by Dr. David Rogers, provost and chief operating officer, school deans and members of the college council in presiding over the ceremony which began with a 20-piece Scottish bagpipe band leading graduates into the formal commencement exercises.

Yeigh lauded the Class of 2012 for their achievements, and Morrisville College Council member Lawrence “Larry” Baker shared similar sentiments.

Keynote speaker, Hamdi Ulukaya, founder and president of Chobani, and winner of the 2012 U.S. Small Business Administration’s Entrepreneurial Success Award, urged graduates to apply all they have learned at Morrisville State College to life.

Ulukaya didn’t address the crowd with a speech, but rather chose to share his story about his rise to success.

It started with a newspaper ad for a small yogurt company “in a little place called South Edmeston.” In that small Chenango County hamlet, he found a place rich in spirit.

“The odds were against us,” he said referring to his company which will reach billion dollar valuation this year. But Ulukaya beat them with an important ingredient he credits with driving his company to thrive—passion.

“You really have to love what you do,” he emphasized. “It doesn’t matter what it is. You have to love it....and I love what I do.”

That passion’s been evident in the company’s storied growth. Five years ago, Chobani started with five employees and produced 1,000 cases of yogurt per month. Today, the company has more than 1,100 employees and produces more than 1.5 million cases of yogurt per week, with plans for more growth and expansion on the horizon.

One of the fastest growing start-up businesses ever, Chobani is now the number one leading yogurt in the country.
He had other advice for graduates. “If you truly believe in, and surround yourself with good people and work hard, anything is possible.” He also stressed the importance of remembering one’s roots. “From here you go out into the world, but never lose touch with where you came from.”

That also includes the journey. Ulukaya stressed that “success is not a destination. There is nothing in a billion-dollar business or in so many yogurt cups. The key is in the journey. I am a success because I had an amazing journey.”

“I wish to God you have an amazing journey too,” he said in his parting words which were followed by a standing ovation.

Student Government Organization (SGO) president, Nicole Williams, of Brooklyn N.Y., a journalism and communication for online media bachelor degree graduate, also addressed fellow graduates.

“Believe in yourself and don’t let others define who you are,” she said. “And remember that nothing is over until the moment you stop trying.”

During the ceremony, several members of the college community were recognized.

Patti Elko, of Clinton and formerly of Syracuse, associate professor of mathematics, received the Morrisville State College Distinguished Faculty Award and Colleen Stella, of Morrisville, associate librarian, received the Distinguished Librarian Award.

Dr. Anne Schaper Englot, of Fayetteville, professor of architectural studies and design, was recognized for receiving the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, Douglas Trew, of Munnsville, was recognized for receiving the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Professional Service, and Lt. David Duchene, of Oneida, a NYS University Police Officer, was recognized for winning the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Classified Service.

Graduating students Thomas Longland, of Dunnville, Ontario, a human performance and health promotion bachelor degree major, and Adam Houck, of Vernon Center, a computer information technology; application software development bachelor degree major, were recognized for winning the Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence, a prestigious SUNY-wide award.