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Morrisville State College graduates celebrate during 102nd commencement ceremony

MORRISVILLE, NY —Deng Kiir was 10 years old when he fled the violence of his country. He walked two months from Sudan to Ethiopia in hopes of a better life.

Today, Kiir, one of the Lost Boys of Sudan who were forced to flee their homes and families, shared one of the greatest journeys in his life—graduating from college.

Kiir was among students who graduated during Morrisville State College’s 102nd commencement exercises held today. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

“I never expected this, ever” said Kiir with a beaming smile. “With all that I have seen in my life; it wasn’t about going to school. It was about surviving.”

When he left Sudan, Kiir was separated from his parents and the world. “There were days when we walked without food and water and so many people died around us.”

While the memories remain, he is focused on his future, one that involves helping others. “I want to do something where I will have a chance to give back all that people have given to me and done for me.”

Graduates 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. William J. Murabito, president, was joined by Dr. David Rogers, provost, 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.

Keynote speaker, State Sen. David J. Valesky, praised students for their achievements.

“You and your peers are the next generation of leaders in this world. You are inheriting some very difficult circumstances, but you also have some of the best tools available to overcome them, and to blaze a new trail. To make a better world for your parents, for your children and for people you don’t even know.”

He also offered advice on how they can make a difference, touching upon rules that helped him succeed professionally and personally throughout his career.

“I know that you have bright futures ahead of you. It is no accident that you have gotten this far. You have worked hard, and deserve to celebrate. So take this day to do that,” he said. “But tomorrow, take advantage of the opportunity you have to be the next generation of leaders, to step up and take the world by the reins and charge into a bright and successful future for you, your families, and the entire global community.”

Student Government Organization (SGO) president, Galen Morehead, of Norwich, a criminal justice bachelor degree student, also addressed graduates.

“I firmly believe that none of you will forget your time here at Morrisville,” he said. “Take your memories and experiences and carry them with you throughout your life. These things have helped to shape who you are and who you will be.”

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

Dr. Kurt Reymers, of Poolville, associate professor of science, technology and society, and Dr. Clare Armstrong-Seward, of Smyrna, assistant professor of criminal justice and chair of the college’s criminal justice department, were recognized for receiving the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. Sara Mansfield, of Fayetteville, mental health counselor in the Morrisville State College Health Center, received the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Professional Service, Mark Whitney, of Morrisville, professor of humanities, received the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Faculty Service, and Wendy Groves, of Morrisville, administrative assistant in Technology Services, received the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Classified Service.

Graduating students Cora Mason, of Silver Springs, an agricultural business development bachelor degree major and Hai Nguyen, of Vietnam, an architectural studies and design student, were recognized for winning the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence.

Lisa Rusch, of Hamilton, assistant professor of sports nutrition and fitness management (SNFM) and human performance and health promotion (HPHP), received the Morrisville State College Distinguished Faculty Award.