Press Releases

Purchase College’s 35th Commencement Ceremony May 18, 2007

Date Released: 4/30/2007

Thomas J. Schwarz, President of Purchase College, State University of New York, will preside at the 35th Commencement ceremony on Friday, May 18 at 1 PM on the West Lawn (735 Anderson Hill Road).  Degrees will be awarded to approximately 816 undergraduates and 76 graduate students.

The Commencement ceremony will be held under a large white tent decorated with red and white banners and chevrons representing each of the College’s schools and conservatories.  Masses of red and white geraniums and hibiscus plants will decorate the stage.

The academic procession will be led by Mace Bearer Bob Berlind, Professor of Painting/Drawing.  Faculty marshals Bert Lucarelli, Assistant Professor of Music, and Gregorio Rosenblum, Associate Professor of Language & Culture, will escort the deans, department heads and senior College officials in academic robes representing the institutions from which they received their degrees.  Banners will identify the seating locations of the graduates and their respective schools and conservatories.

President Thomas J. Schwarz will welcome families, friends and officials and will be joined by SUNY representatives.

Music for the ceremony will be performed by the Purchase Latin Jazz Orchestra, led by Professor Ray Vega.

The National Anthem will be sung by senior Christian Bowers of White Plains, NY.   

Joyce Randolph–Honorary Degree
Doctor of Fine Arts

Joyce Randolph is known to legions of admirers for her pioneering role as Trixie in The Honeymooners, one of the best remembered and most imitated programs in the history of television.  Almost six decades later, its popularity continues as a result of continual syndication since the show’s original run ended in 1957. 

The Honeymooners is a comic reflection of urban, postwar America as a land of opportunity for dreamers like bus driver Ralph Kramden, portrayed by Jackie Gleason and his sidekick Ed Norton, played by Art Carney—and their wives, played by Joyce Randolph and Audrey Meadows.

And although written and broadcast at a time when men and women were not equal, long before the women’s rights movement, The Honeymooners foreshadowed the rise of women by the comparative, quiet intelligence of Alice and Trixie and the humorous muddling of Ralph and Ed.

Ms. Randolph began her acting career at 18 in her hometown of Detroit and joined a touring revival of Stage Door.  After moving to New York, she made her Broadway debut in A Goose for the Gander with Gloria Swanson.  She has been on television with such comedy superstars as Eddie Cantor, Jack Benny, Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Danny Thomas, Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz and Fred Allen. She was featured on Broadway in the ‘40’s and ‘50’s and made the transition to television during its early days appearing on such shows as The Cavalcade of Stars, the Colgate Comedy Hour and Four Star Revue.  She has also appeared in films and commercials.

The USO named her its Woman of the Year in 1995 and she serves on its Board of Directors.  The Lambs, the renowned theater club, voted her a life member for her years of service.

She has been known to greet her fans at Sardi’s near caricatures of the four main Honeymooners characters where she signs her name and the name, Trixie.

She has made an indelible imprint on our American culture and is an inspiration to students in the theater, creative writing and social sciences programs at Purchase College.

Tania León- Honorary Degree
Doctor of Music

Tania León is a highly regarded composer, conductor and a vital personality on today’s music scene.  Since arriving in the United States from her native Cuba in the late 1960’s, she has had a distinguished career as an inspiring educator and an advisor to arts organizations.  She has been profiled on television programs and in independent films.

Her powerful and compelling music is an original blending of musical elements from her Cuban and Latin American heritage and her western music training.  She has appeared as a guest conductor with numerous orchestras throughout Europe, Latin America, South Africa and across the United States, including the New York Philharmonic.

As a composer she has written in all genres, from solo and chamber works to symphony orchestra, ballet and opera compositions. A fruitful collaboration with Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka resulted in the opera Scourge of the Hyacinths, staged and designed by Robert Wilson, and performed throughout Europe and Mexico.

She was a founding member and first music director of the Dance Theater of Harlem where she established the Dance Theater’s Music Department, Music School and Orchestra.

Her affiliation with the Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra resulted in the Brooklyn Philharmonic Community Concert Series and her work with the American Composers Orchestra led to the Sonidos de las Americas Festivals.  In the 1990’s she served as the New Music Advisor to Kurt Mazur and the New York Philharmonic.

In recognition of her 20 years as a faculty member of the Brooklyn College Conservatory of Music, she was appointed Distinguished Professor of the City University of New York. She recently received a 2007 Guggenheim Fellowship award for music composition for which she will create a specially commissioned chamber opera for children called The Three Astronauts.

Next fall she will be a visiting artist-in-residence at Purchase College where she will create a new work for the Purchase Symphony Orchestra, collaborate with choreographer Kevin Wynn for the Purchase Dance Corps and present a series of master classes.

President’s Award for Distinguished Alumni

Adam Nagourney (‘77), national political correspondent for the New York Times, has worked for the newspaper since 1996 and is a respected political analyst and author.  He has reported on the presidential campaigns of Bill Clinton, Bob Dole and Michael Dukakis, as well as Hillary Rodham Clinton’s U.S. Senate race in 2000, and the most recent elections in Great Britain.

He has written numerous articles on politics and public figures including recent profiles of Ken Mehlman, chairman of the Republican National Committee from 2005 to 2007; Karl Rove, President Bush’s chief political adviser; Andrew Cuomo, the attorney general of New York; and a feature on the use of American political consultants in the 2000 Israeli elections.  He is the author of Out for Good about the modern gay rights movement in America.

He began as a reporter for the Purchase College student newspaper and, after graduation, worked for the White Plains Reporter Dispatch and the New York Daily News.  He was later hired by USA Today to cover the White House and presidential politics.

Doug Varone
President’s Award for Distinguished Alumni

Doug Varone (‘78) has achieved international acclaim as a dancer, choreographer and artistic director.  He has created more that 40 original works for the dance company he founded in 1986, Doug Varone and Dancers, as well as for dozens of companies throughout the world.
His work has been seen at the Metropolitan Opera in a 2004 production of Salome and a 2005 production of An American Tragedy. He has also created choreography for the Washington Opera, the Colorado Opera, Broadway, and for theater productions in Baltimore, New Haven and Philadelphia, as well as for television and cinema.

His honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Choo-San Goh Award, ten annual Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the Off-Broadway Theater Award (the Obie), and the 1998 New York Dance and Performance Award (the Bessie) for Sustained Achievement in Choreography. 

The company’s ability to move and excite audiences and energize communities has led to scores of return engagements.  A three-week residency at Purchase in 2006 included free public workshops and demonstrations of Varone’s choreography.

Senator Charles E. Schumer

For the past two and a half decades Senator Charles Schumer has been a leader on national issues and a tireless fighter for New York. He has been an advocate for improving access to quality education and has led the charge in Congress to make college tuition tax deductible. He also developed a “Marshall Plan for Teachers” that provides incentives to attract the best and brightest to teaching.  Several amendments he successfully authored for the Education Bill doubled funding for the recruitment and retention of math and science teachers.

Now in his second term, Senator Schumer has been a pioneer in the fight against crime, a tireless worker for women’s rights and has made improving New York’s economy his top priority. He serves on the Senate Finance Committee, the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, the Judiciary Committee, and the Rules Committee. He is also the ranking member of the Administrative Oversight and the Courts Subcommittee, and the Economic Policy Subcommittee. A product of Brooklyn public schools, Senator Schumer graduated from Harvard College and Harvard Law School and was elected to the New York State Assembly at age 23, making him one of the youngest members since Theodore Roosevelt. He was later elected to Congress at age 29.

Senior Speaker
Laura Strain, Jamesport, N.Y.

Laura Strain, this year’s Senior Speaker, a creative writing major, will describe her personal growth and what she really learned as a student at Purchase:

“Over four years I felt myself changing…. The inner life…was so fascinating I never wanted to leave…I didn’t make friends here, I made family.  I made art, I made music, I made myself.  I feel as though I’ve looked into the face of everyone here…a luxury of attending a fairly small school.

“I have traveled and lived in many places around the world, and it has been here that I have seen the most exquisite letting loose, cutting intellect, quiet compassion, breaking down and getting back up, pure enthralled joy and unbridled passion.  Having graduated in January, I’ve been a citizen of the ‘real’ world now for about six months.  What I didn’t realize was studying at this fine institution has been a choice…expanding our minds has been a choice, who we have become has been a choice.  When you leave here, it will still be a choice to continue that process…because no one will be expecting you to educate yourself. To quote Jon Stewart,
‘College is something you finish, life is something you experience.’

“Literature, lovers and friends have all taught me that at the heart of every story there is change…. While I could stand here and tell you that you will one day make a difference, I want to entertain the notion that you already have, and will continue to do so. It is a big responsibility…this choice to be an active part of humanity—and I feel more than honored to stand here, with you, on the threshold of this great, new adventure.”

Special Guest Brian Carney

Brian Carney, the son of actor Art Carney, will speak at the ceremony and introduce actress and honorary degree recipient Joyce Randolph.  He has been a guitar soloist who has performed at over 200 colleges throughout the country and is known for the commercials he has made since the 1980’s. Over the years he has been the voice of Ivory Soap, Heineken Beer, Fisher Price Toys, MasterCard, the U.S. Postal Service and Madison Square Garden Television.  He has also done promotional work for Court TV, The Learning Channel and recently, ABC World News Tonight.  He can be seen on a Fed Ex television commercial and a commercial for the Visiting Nurse Service of New York.  He has also appeared on sitcoms and soap operas.

Chancellor Award Winners

Four SUNY Chancellor Award winners will also be recognized at the ceremony for contributions to their campus, local community and their grade point average.

Lindsay Randall, Oneonta, NY, an environmental studies major with a 4.06 GPA, interned at the office of Congresswoman Nita Lowey.  She is the founding president of the Environmental Activists Club and a chair of the Environmental Sustainability Committee.  She has served as a student senator, a teaching assistant and a peer advisor.

Maria Gervits, Bronx, NY, is a biology major with a 4.08 GPA who has served as a teaching assistant, a tutor, a peer advisor and volunteer at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.  A recipient of the NEAC Scholar Athlete Award and member of the Pre-med Club, she will attend medical school.

Molly Gawler, Belgrade, ME, a dance major with a 3.94 GPA, is a highly accomplished performer.  She has performed all over the world with the Purchase Dance Corps, with the Pilobolus Dance Co. at this year’s Academy Awards, and with the band Childsplay as a fiddler.  She released a solo CD in 2005 and performed in Hong Kong and Africa in 2006.

John Howard, Miller Place, NY, a literature major with a 3.84 GPA, is president of the campus Literary Society and a founding editor of The Submission, a publication devoted to highlighting the creativity of the Purchase community.  An RA, he was also an assistant manager at the Purchase College Performing Arts Center.

A reception for the graduates and their families will follow the ceremony.