Press Releases

Purchase College 36th Commencement May 16

Date Released: 4/14/2008

Thomas J. Schwarz, President of Purchase College, State University of New York, will preside at the 36th Commencement ceremony on Friday, May 16 at 1 PM on the West Lawn (735 Anderson Hill Road).  Degrees will be awarded to approximately 876 undergraduates and 72 graduate students.


Throughout this year Purchase has been celebrating the 40th anniversary of its founding by Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller, and its preeminence as an institution where the arts and the liberal arts and sciences flourish.  The honorary degree recipients and distinguished alumni reflect the philosophy of the College.


Honorary degrees will be conferred on playwright Tony Kushner and international economist Jeffrey D. Sachs. 


Mr. Kushner is a leading playwright and a major voice in American Theatre who has won a Pulitzer Prize for drama, two Tony Awards for Best Play and an Emmy.


Mr. Sachs is a leading international economist and an advocate for combining economic development with environmental sustainability. Time magazine named him one of the most influential people in the world.


The President’s Award for Distinguished Alumni will be presented to columnist, culture editor and critic Jeremy Gerard, and leading Metropolitan Opera singer Dwayne Croft.


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 Charles Ponce De Leon, Associate Professor of History.  Faculty marshals Joseph Fashing, Professor Emeritus, Sociology, and Nancy Davidson, Professor of Painting/Drawing, will escort the deans, department heads and senior College officials in academic robes representing the institutions from which they received their academic 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 State University of New York representatives.


Music for the ceremony will be provided by Music Professor Joe Ferry and the Big Ska Band. They will perform original reggae and ska arrangements of classical and gospel favorites. The lively West Indian-influenced music reflects the campus theme for the year, Africa and the African Diaspora. The performers include faculty, students and staff: Joe Ferry, bass; Jerry Mitkowski, Hammond B-3 organ; Bob Thompson, trumpet; Gabriel Jasmine, trumpet; Matt Simons, tenor saxophone; Jaclyn Falk, baritone saxophone; Gordon Bartow, trombone; Brett Turbin, guitar; Sam Lester, guitar; and Stuart Stahr, drums.


Selections will include Pachelbel’s Canon in D; excerpt from Don Giovanni-Act II, Scene IV; procession, When the Saints Go Marching In.


The National Anthem will be sung by senior JeanMarie Garofolo of Poughquag, NY.


The senior speaker is Otis Cotton, Harlem, NY, an actor in the School of the Arts, Conservatory of Theatre Arts & Film, who fell in love with singing at the age of four.  The grandson of church ministers, his first performance took place in a mid-sized storefront church in East Harlem. His love for the arts grew in high school and after the loss of his mother, the theater became one of his greatest outlets. In his speech, he quotes Mahatma Gandhi “you must be the change you want to see in the world.” To his fellow graduates, he offers a variation on those words, “We are the change that we want to see in the world. As members of the graduating class of 2008, we are on the cusp of change politically and socially. There could not be a better time to utilize the gifts we have developed here, the friendships that we have fostered over the years and the sense of character born out of dedication and perseverance.”


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



Honorary Degree Recipients


Tony Kushner


Tony Kushner has been hailed as one of the leading playwrights of his generation and is a major voice in American Theatre. As winner of the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1993, as well as two Tony Awards for Best Play and an Emmy, he continues to engage us in the most challenging moral issues and political questions of our time.


His work draws on his personal experiences as a Louisiana native and a student at Columbia University and New York University.  He tirelessly charts new territory as a playwright, translator and adaptor who collaborates widely with writers and artists.


In the landmark Angels in America, he gave us a rich and complex exploration of the devastating and emotional impact of AIDS by depicting the tragic consequences of this disease with compassion, wit and insight.


In Homebody/Kabul, produced in 2001, before September 11, he focused on the effects of Taliban rule of Afghanistan before most Americans had ever heard of the Taliban. In Caroline or Change, he examined the powerful but ambiguous atmosphere of social change through the eyes of a black maid working for a Jewish family in Louisiana in the early 1960’s.  Working with Maurice Sendak, he adapted the libretto of Brundibar, originally performed by Jewish children in a Nazi concentration camp. His collaboration with Eric Roth and Steven Spielberg on the film Munich earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay in 2006.


As one of our most prominent playwrights, whose work is performed around the globe, his work inspires us to face the dehumanizing forces that shape contemporary history while maintaining a firm sense of the triumphant human spirit.


In recognition of his many contributions, the State University of New York, through Purchase College, will bestow upon him the degree of Doctor of Letters.

Jeffrey D. Sachs


Jeffrey D. Sachs is a leading international economist as well as a passionate advocate for combining economic development with environmental sustainability. For more than 20 years he has been at the forefront of the challenge to integrate economic development, poverty alleviation and enlightened globalization. As Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, he leads large-scale efforts to promote the mitigation of human-induced climate change.


A Detroit native, he received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from Harvard University, where he worked for 20 years.  At Columbia, he is also the Quetelet Professor of Sustainable Development and Professor of Health Policy and Management.


He directed the UN Millennium Project from 2002-2006 and is a Special Advisor to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and has been an advisor to numerous UN agencies.  He is internationally renowned for his work as an economic advisor to governments in Latin America, Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, Asia and Africa and with international agencies on problems of poverty reduction, debt cancellation and disease control.


Time magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2004 and 2005.  His syndicated column appears in more than 90 countries around the world, and he is a frequent contributor to leading national publications, including more than 200 scholarly articles.  He has written or edited many books, including the new book Common Wealth published in March 2008 and the New York Times bestseller The End of Poverty, published in 2005.  


His work on environmental sustainability has been an inspiration to Purchase College students and is being adopted on this campus through various “green programs.” In recognition of his many accomplishments, the State University of New York, through Purchase College, will bestow upon him the degree of Doctor of Science.

The President’s Award for Distinguished Alumni Recipients


Dwayne Croft


Dwyane Croft, Music major, is a leading baritone with prominent opera theaters throughout the world. Since joining the Metropolitan Opera’s Young Artist Development Program in 1989, he has become a favorite artist of Metropolitan Opera audiences, appearing in more than 300 performances of 25 roles.  In 1996 he received the prestigious Richard Tucker Foundation Award.  He has also appeared with the Opera de Paris, Vienna Staatsoper, Salzburg Festival, Lyric Opera of Chicago and many others.


He has participated in seven television broadcasts for the Metropolitan Opera including their productions of Billy Budd, Madama Butterfly and Fedora.


On five occasions he has been invited to open the Metropolitan Opera Season.  He has performed there with Placido Domingo, Mirella Freni, Luciano Pavarotti, Teresa Stratas, Frederica von Stade and countless others. His leading roles have included Billy Budd, Pelleas, Don Giovanni, Eugene Onegin, Count Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro, Georgio Germont in La Traviata and his creation of Nick Carraway in the world premiere of The Great Gatsby.


This season he created the role of Robert E. Lee in the world premiere of Philip Glass’ Appomattox with the San Francisco Opera.  He has also performed Germont, and Puccini’s Lescaut and Marcello at the Metropolitan Opera.


His concert work this season includes performances in Berlioz’s Lelio with the San Francisco Symphony as well as Les Troyens with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, including an appearance at Tanglewood.


He is familiar to audiences throughout Europe.  He made his debut with the Vienna Staatsoper as Count Almaviva followed by performances as Don Giovanni and most recently the title role in II barbiere di Siviglia.


He has recorded for EMI Classics, SONY, Decca Records and Phillips Classics.

Jeremy Gerard

Jeremy Gerard, Literature ’77, began his career as a critic at the Soho Weekly News writing muckraking political stories by day and Broadway reviews at night.


In the early ‘80s he was the theater critic of the Dallas Morning News. Soon after returning to New York, he joined the New York Times as the Broadway reporter, writing for the daily newspaper while contributing profiles and essays to" The New York Times Magazine," "Arts & Leisure" and  "The New York Times Book Review."  At Variety he was chief theater critic and New York bureau chief.  For nearly a decade, he was a senior editor and cultural columnist at New York magazine.  Since 2006, he has been a culture editor, columnist and critic at Bloomberg News.


He has contributed profiles and essays to Vanity Fair, Esquire, Fame, American Theater and Columbia Journalism Review, among other magazines.


He is the author of two books: Act Two, an account of the second annual Congress of American Theater; and the soon to be published Wynn, Place Show, a biography of theater director Wynn Handman and the American Place Theater.


Gerard has served as chairman of the jury for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama, is a former president of the New York Drama Critics Circle, and has taught cultural journalism at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.


Purchase College Student Chancellor’s Awards


Patricia Gaeta


Patricia Gaeta, Niagara Falls, NY, a Painting and Printmaking major with a 3.57 GPA, played on the basketball team, served as captain of the cross country team and was a peer advisor. A two-time recipient of the Athletic Leadership Award, her work was highlighted at the School of the Arts Gala in New York City last fall.


Sade Greene


Sade Greene, Bronx, NY, a Political Science major with a 3.55 GPA, has served as a peer advisor, a student ambassador, a club president and a student government senator. She was a Community Outreach Coordinator for Governor Spitzer’s campaign, a Camp David participant and a College Success Mentor for Harlem’s Children’s Zone.


Brandon Jackson


Brandon Jackson, Staten Island, NY, a Biology major with a 3.89 GPA, is a resident assistant and a peer tutor. A soccer player, he received the NEAC Scholar Athlete Award and a William Schlutow Scholarship for excellence in biology. He has received a full scholarship to attend dental school at the University of Connecticut.


Rayden Sorock


Rayden Sorock, Glyndon, MD, a Literature major with a 3.84 GPA, is a member of the GLBTU and founded Transaction, a student group committed to the rights of transgendered students. He interned for Gender Studies and for the Association for Gender Rights Advocacy and has served as a Pride Volunteer.