News Center

Back to News Center

Graduates celebrate during Morrisville State College’s 106th commencement ceremony, reflect on internship opportunities


MORRISVILLE, NY—As Kara Budinock was helping her father grow beans, pumpkins and cucumbers in the family garden at age 5, little did she know she was planting the seeds of her career.

The annual custom, along with her creative flair, led to bigger things at Morrisville State College where she pursued an interest in floral design and vegetable production through the college’s horticulture programs.

At Morrisville, the 22-year-old from Wolcott, a small town in Wayne County, flourished as a student leading many campus projects.

Budinock is among those who graduated during Morrisville State College’s 106th commencement ceremony today. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in horticulture business management.

Budinock begins a new venture next. She will travel to Tuscany, Italy, to participate in an internship at Spannocchia, an organic farm that grows vegetables, olives, and grapes and raises livestock.

The three-month internship, which fulfills a requirement for her bachelor’s degree, aligns with her plan to run her own fruit and vegetable farm someday. It also includes learning to speak Italian, educational presentations and bi-monthly field trips to surrounding areas of interest.

“This is a great opportunity for me to gain new skills and to meet people from all around the world,” Budinock said.

At Morrisville Budinock, who first earned an associate degree in horticulture-floral design, took advantage of every opportunity to broaden her skills. A college-run business enabled her to get involved with annual floral sales and to create showpieces for the Morrisville State College president’s inauguration ceremony and receptions.

She also cultivated an interest in vegetable production, taking various courses while also helping to build a high tunnel for year-round crop growing on campus.

Andrew Underhill gained a wealth of knowledge from a 15-week internship in Germany, returning just days before graduating with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural business development.

His internship at Erdbeerland Funck Company, a strawberry and asparagus farm, gave him ideas to take back to his family farm, Underhill Farms, in Batavia. He plans to expand the third-generation farm, which sells produce and beef.

“I came back with so many new ideas to implement—different cultivating methods that could help with our strawberry production, for example,” he said. “And I learned a lot about high tunnels, which can extend the growing season.”

Like Budinock and Underhill, many of this year’s graduating students have performed internships that gave them invaluable experience in the competitive job market.

During the ceremony, 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.

MSC President David E. Rogers was joined by Provost Barry Spriggs, school deans and members of the College Council in presiding over the ceremony, which began with the Syracuse Scottish Pipe Band leading graduates into the formal commencement exercises.

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer addressed graduates at the opening of the ceremony.

“I’m truly honored to be here,” he said. “Morrisville is one of the most outstanding institutions of its kind, not just in New York State, but in the country.”

“On this day of your achievement, my simple advice to you is take the risk,” Schumer added. “Don’t let the fear of failure deter you…Garner up the courage and strength, put aside your doubts, and take a chance. And if you do, it is my hope, my prayer, and indeed my confidence that you will find true success and true joy.”

Student Government Organization (SGO) president and graduating senior, Danielle Gauthier, also addressed fellow classmates during the ceremony, citing the dedication of Morrisville administration as the key to the Morrisville experience.

“To our professors, advisors, coaches, faculty, staff and administration, thank you all for the hard work you do every day to make sure we got the most out of our college experience,” she said. “We came here to earn a degree, but a degree from Morrisville is so much more than that piece of paper. You’ve all made sure we leave here with the knowledge, skills and confidence that we need to build our careers.”

“Morrisville Mustangs are truly a different breed,” she added.
That spirit was also evident in the college’s presentation of its President’s Medal of Distinction Award.

During the ceremony Robert E. Berkey, III, Chief Operating Officer at Cushman & Wakefield/Pyramid Brokerage Company, and Patrick M. Hooker, Deputy Secretary for Food and Agriculture, each were presented the President’s Medal of Distinction Award. The highest non-degree honor presented by the college, the award is conferred by President Rogers to individuals who have made exceptional contributions to the Morrisville campus communities.

The award is presented to citizens of the region, state or nation for their significant service, leadership and professional achievements. (SEE BELOW FOR BIOS OF ROBERT BERKEY AND PATRICK HOOKER.
A supporter of Morrisville State College, Berkey is a board member of the MSC President’s Advisory Council. He funds the Pyramid Brokerage Company lecture series, in its seventh year, and is a guest lecturer on campus.

“This is a very high honor for me,” said Berkey, a past board member of the Morrisville-Eaton Central School District and the Morrisville Community Church. “This college is very unique and very special. Without exception in all my years and experience here, the staff and faculty are extremely bright, but what is most impressive to me is their extreme passion and extreme commitment to what they do every day.”

“They say when you get to the end of life, you don’t remember days, you don’t remember weeks, you don’t remember months, you don’t remember years. What you remember are the very special moments in your life,” he added. “This is certainly one of those moments for me. My deepest and my most sincere thanks to all of you who are responsible for selecting me for this very special honor.”

Hooker, a 1982 graduate of Morrisville State College’s agricultural science program, has been involved with agriculture policy his entire career.

“Agriculture has always been my life,” said Hooker, an active member of the Madison County Junior Holstein Club and the National FFA Organization. “To be able to come to Morrisville State College, a premiere college of agriculture in the northeast United States, it’s been incredibly important to my journey.”

“(Morrisville) was the foundation of my life and my career, and gave me the ability to do all of the things I’ve done. And now we all have that same foundation,” he said.

Other awards noted during the ceremony:
• Stephen L. Hinkle of Madison, professor of humanities and director of theater and music, received the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Faculty Service.

• Kelly Hennigan of Morrisville, associate professor of horticulture and chair of the Horticulture Department, received the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching.

• Seth A. Carsten of Eaton, instructional support assistant, Natural Resources Conservation Department, received the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Professional Service.

• Katey Cordary of Wampsville, adjunct instructor, Liberal Arts, received the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Adjunct Teaching.

• Melissa Pearson of DeRuyter, secretary I, Facilities Department, received the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Classified Service.

• Angela M. Rhodes of Hamilton, associate librarian, received the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Librarianship.

• Clare Armstrong-Seward of Smyrna, associate professor of criminal justice and chair of the college’s Criminal Justice Department, received the Morrisville State College Distinguished Faculty Award.

• Graduating students Byron J. Evans of Cazenovia, automotive management, and Joseph T. Hulbert of Duanesburg, criminal justice, were recognized for receiving the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence.

About President’s Medal of Distinction recipient Robert E. Berkey, III

Robert E. Berkey, III serves as Chief Operating Officer (COO) at Cushman & Wakefield/Pyramid Brokerage Company.

A supporter of Morrisville State College, Berkey is a board member of the MSC President’s Advisory Council. He funds the Pyramid Brokerage Company lecture series, in its seventh year, and is a guest lecturer on campus.

Berkey joined Pyramid Brokerage Company in May of 1998 as Vice President of Operations before later becoming its COO. Along with handling day-to-day operations, Berkey’s primary roles include the development and implementation of the company’s strategic plan, growth initiatives, recruiting, training, and technology and information management. He also develops, advises and consults corporate clients.

Prior to Pyramid, Berkey fulfilled a number of senior management positions during a 26-year career in the Energy Division, Wholesale Distribution and Retail Store Operations of Agway, Inc., a large agricultural cooperative. As Vice President of Retail Store Operations, he was responsible for more than 500 retail lawn and garden stores across 11 northeastern states.

His professional affiliations include membership in the Cushman & Wakefield Alliance, the New York State Commercial Association of Realtors (NYSCAR), the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC). He is a past board member of the Morrisville-Eaton Central school district and the Morrisville Community Church.

A graduate of SUNY Delhi, Berkey holds an associate degree in business administration and management.

Berkey and his wife, Ginger, have five children.
About President’s Medal of Distinction recipient Patrick M. Hooker

Patrick M. Hooker serves as the Deputy Secretary for Food and Agriculture, a position to which he was appointed by New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Holding the role since 2013, Hooker is the Governor’s liaison to the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets and to the State Liquor Authority.

A 1982 graduate of Morrisville State College’s agricultural science program, Hooker has been involved with agriculture policy his entire career. He began as a Rural Affairs Adviser to the New York State Assembly in the Office of the Minority Leader from 1985-87 before a three-year turn as Director of the New York State Senate Agriculture Committee.

Hooker joined the New York Farm Bureau in 1990, serving as Deputy Director of Governmental Relations until 1999 and then as Director of Public Policy until 2007. He was later appointed as New York’s Commissioner of Agriculture and Markets and created the Governor’s Food Policy Council. In 2011, he became Director of Agribusiness Development for the Empire State Development Corporation, serving for two years prior to his current appointment.

Hooker grew up working on a neighbor’s dairy farm in Nelson. An active member of the Madison County Junior Holstein Club and the National FFA Organization, he held various local and county offices before being elected State FFA President in 1979. He was later named National Chairman of the International Committee and received his American Farmer Degree.

In addition to his associate degree from Morrisville State College, he holds a bachelor’s degree in agricultural education from Cornell University.

Hooker and his wife, Karen, have two children, Erika and Mitchell. The family produces maple syrup on its 360-acre farm in Richfield Springs.

Morrisville State College’s curricula are enriched with applied learning and pave the way for opportunity at both the Morrisville and Norwich campuses. An action-oriented, interactive learning lab, the college is a national leader in technology and has been lauded for its exemplary, innovative and effective community service programs.

The college was ranked among the Best Regional Colleges in the North by U.S. News and World Report Best Colleges 2017 issue and was also recognized in the Top Public Schools, Regional Colleges North in the 2017 Best Colleges rankings. For more information about Morrisville State College, visit www.morrisville.edu.