Press Releases

Purchase 39th Commencement on May 20-Westchester County Center

Date Released: 5/11/2011

Artist Alfredo Jaar& educator Evelyn Fox Keller to receive honorary degrees. Actress and comedian Susie Essman & artist and educator Jon Kessler to receive Preident's Award for Distinguished Alumni. Details.

Purchase, NY--President Thomas J. Schwarz will preside at the 39th  Commencement ceremony of Purchase College State University of New York on Friday, May 20 at 1 PM at the Westchester County Center.  Degrees will be awarded to approximately 990 undergraduates and 60 graduate students. 

Honorary degrees will be conferred on artist Alfredo Jaar and Dr. Evelyn Fox Keller a founding member of the Purchase College faculty in mathematics, natural sciences and women's studies.

The President's Award for Distinguished Alumni will be presented to
actress and comedienne Susie Essman and artist and educator Jon Kessler.

Amid pomp and ceremony, the commencement procession will be led by Faculty Marshalls Dr. William Needham, Dr. James Utter, and Dr. Tania Chao. The Mace bearer will be Dr. Louise Yelin, Chair, School of Humanities. The honor guard will include Officer Donnelle Charles Officer David Mobley.

Joseph Ferry and the Big Ska Band will entertain the audience with lively Jamaican Reggae and Ska music before and during the ceremony. Musicians are Purchase College faculty members and students including: Joey Ray, vocals; Joe Ferry, Bass; Jim McElwaine, Saxophone; Richard Fields, Trumpet; Dave Lewitt, Drums; Jon Graber, Guitar; Jerry Mitkowski, Hammond B-3.

Music selections include:
Fanfare: When The Saints Go Marching In
Processional : Pachelbel's Canon in D segue to Pomp and Circumstance
Recessional : Pomp and Circumstance segue to New York New York

The National Anthem will be performed by graduate student Holly Hare of Bittinger, MD.  (See her bio)

The Senior Speaker (Valedictorian) is Kaitlyn Raitz, Islip, Long Island. 
In her speech she said, "I found my inspiration on the inside label of an Honest Tea Bottle. It read, "Why not go out on a limb" isn't that where the fruit is."  Ms. Raitz is a cellist who began  performing at age ten and is a swim team champion who has won two Skyline Championships, a Hudson Valley Championship, and a SUNY Chancellor Athlete Award. She quoted her coach who told her before an important meet and an upcoming senior recital "the only things that will get in your way are yourself and the limits you think you have." She urged classmates to follow Eleanor Roosevelt's advice. "Look fear in the face... Do the thing you think you cannot do."  (See her bio)

The ceremony will be web cast for those unable to attend. Large overhead screens will carry a slide show of campus life before the ceremony and will capture every detail of the ceremony.  Masses of greenery and garlands of flowers will decorate the stage.

Honorary Degree Citations

Evelyn Fox Keller

Your honorary degree bears special meaning to the Purchase College campus where you were a founding member of the Purchase College faculty in the areas of mathematics, natural sciences and women's studies. During your ten year tenure from 1972-1982, you were instrumental in establishing the College's credentials as an academic institution within the liberal arts and sciences and inspiring a generation of faculty members.
You have been a ground breaker and a glass ceiling shatterer throughout your life. You graduated from college with a BA in physics in 1957, a time when it was highly unusual to find women majors in the sciences. Undaunted by convention, you continued to Harvard where you earned your PhD in theoretical physics in 1963.

You launched your career as an educator and researcher and then author at a pivotal time in the development of feminist theory. Much of your research and writing explores the issues of gender and the relationship of gender to the sciences. You have explored a wide range of topics in women's studies, biology, physics, and the history and philosophy of science.  Your work has been noted for "opening up the floodgates to a critique of the scientific process" and continues to challenge the assumptions of the role and purpose of science in culture.

Your contributions were recognized by the awarding of a MacArthur Foundation "genius grant" in 1992. Your publications, particularly your biography of Nobel Prize winner Barbara McClintock, have an international reputation. Your memberships in the American Philosophical Society and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences underscores the significance of your scholarly activities.

Your career captures the essence of the creative and interdisciplinary focus of education that prevails at Purchase College. Your multidimensional perspective on the sciences is inspirational as well as exemplary to our students. You prove on so many levels that goals are attainable and boundaries are surmountable.

In recognition of your contributions to the Natural Sciences and Women's studies programs at Purchase College, your work on gender and science and in the history and philosophy of science, the State University of New York, through Purchase College, bestows upon you the degree of Doctor of Science.

Alfredo Jaar

You are an artist whose work exposes and conveys social injustices throughout the world.  You grew up in Chile in the 1970s and 80s both observing and experiencing the social, political and economic upheavals in a country where its people feared retribution for expressing personal views or exercising personal freedoms. You entered college with a desire to expose these observations through your work. 

Your early work focused on the politically desperate situation in Chile in the late 1970s.  Your three-year-long project, "Studies on Happiness" mixed public billboards, interviews, and poetry among other audio/visual material.  Through this work you directly challenged the repressive government of the period.

You moved to New York City in the 1980s, began a career as an architect, and continued to work on artistic projects with political meaning. You were awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, which allowed you to focus on your art. You embarked on a project to expose mining practices in the Amazon, and created works featuring the miners of Serra Pelada, where photographs displayed through various commercial settings revealed both the impact of the sharp ascent of gold prices and the miners' plight and exploitation. These projects were featured at the Venice Biennale in 1986.

In the 90s your "Rwanda Project" used personal observations, images, and media responses to investigate the worldwide response to the horrors of the 1994 genocide, and to challenge the power and responsibility of images to convey this information.

Over your thirty year career, you have created more than 60 "public interventions", exhibited in many of the most prominent museums and venues around the world, and received awards such as the MacArthur Genius  Fellowship.

Your  career in which your artistic talent is linked with your concern for human social issues reflects the commitment of Purchase to its students: to educate and train with a view not only to excel, but to be socially engaged and involved citizens of the world. You reflect values that are important to Purchase College: the importance of new artistic creation, the power of cultural production to change society, and the need to view humanity as one common experience.
In recognition for your work highlighting the ties that bind the First and Third Worlds, your efforts to call the public's attention to the politics of images and your belief that cultural production can truly generate social change, The State University of New York, through Purchase College, bestows upon you the degree of Doctor of Fine Arts.

President's Award for Distinguished Alumni Citation

Susie Essman

Whereas, the well- known comedienne and actress Susie Essman was an Urban Studies major of Purchase College, class of 1977; and

Whereas,  her character of Susie Greene, the beleaguered  LA housewife of  "Curb Your Enthusiasm"  is enjoyed by millions addicted to the HBO TV series which, with season 8 premiering this summer, is the longest running series in the history of HBO; and

Whereas, Susie Essman's interest in acting began in childhood and her role as the Wicked Witch of the West at Camp Willoway cemented her interest in becoming a character actress; though  after matriculating at Purchase, she decided that she should be a comedic actress; and

Whereas, after graduation, she took to the stage as a comic, at first mimicking the voices of others until finding her own voice and personality as a comedienne so that by 1987 she was an established New York Club act, doing 400 shows a year ; and

Whereas in 2000, she became Jeff Greene's wife on "Curb Your Enthusiasm", developed the role of the outrageous and outspoken housewife and helped the show earn a Golden Globe for Best Television Series and nominations for four Emmys; and

Whereas, in the midst of her acting career, she became a published writer, married and now raises 4 children, one of whom has been accepted to Purchase College for fall 2011; and

Whereas, her family life has nothing in common with the life of Susie Greene; nonetheless, she shares with Susie Greene a  sense of righteousness and determination to fight for what she believes; and

Whereas Purchase College has benefitted from her commitment to beliefs and causes; most recently she served as the emcee at the 2010 School of the Arts gala; and

Now therefore do I, Thomas J. Schwarz, President , on behalf of the alumni, faculty, students and staff of Purchase College, State University of New York, proudly recognize Susie Essman Recipient of the Purchase College President's Award for Distinguished Alumni. Presented on this, the Twentieth day of May, 2011

Jon Kessler

Whereas, Jon Kessler, a BFA Visual Art graduate of Purchase College class of 1980, has been an artist, educator and musical performer for the past 30 years; and

Whereas, among other awards, he has received both National Endowment for the Arts and Guggenheim Fellowships in recognition of his groundbreaking work; and

Whereas, his kinetic sculpture of the 80s and 90s juxtaposed old fashioned, mechanical apparatus with digital technology as a portrayal of how disruptive consumerism can be in today's society; and

Whereas, he began a new phase of work post 9/11 devoted to portraying the aftershocks of terrorism on our nation--the expansion of surveillance, the increase in military involvement, the commitment to a war on terror; and

Whereas, this new work includes mass-media imagery on screens while at the same time exposes how the imagery was made in order to create a sense of surveillance while viewing subject material on contemporary themes; and

Whereas; his work with mechanical devices and more recently with cameras has inspired younger generations of artists eager to explore the new directions which he has forged;

Whereas; his following includes Purchase College students and faculty, his students at Columbia University, art collectors, galleries, museums, as well as music enthusiasts worldwide; and

Now therefore do I, Thomas J. Schwarz, President, on behalf of the alumni, faculty, students and staff of Purchase College, State University of New York proudly recognize Jon Kessler Recipient of the Purchase College President's Award for Distinguished Alumni. Presented on this, the Twentieth of May, 2011


Senior Speaker Kaitlyn Raitz

A native of Islip, Long Island, NY, she began playing cello at age 10 and continued through college where she studied with Julia Lichten at the Purchase College School of the Arts Conservatory of Music. She began swimming at age 7 and also continued through college where she won two Skyline Championships  and a Hudson Valley Championship with the women's swimming team, and a SUNY Chancellor Scholar Athlete Award in 2009. At Purchase she has been a writing tutor at the Learning Center and a lifeguard.  She has performed at the Guggenheim Museum, on a recording of the opera The Tempest, by Lee Hoiby with Albany Records, and at the world premiere of Ticket to Ride: the Ultimate Beatles Experience.  She has also been an extra on the TV show "Lights Out" on FX.  She plans to pursue a career in classical music with the aim of extending the reach of classical music to new and broader audiences.  She will return for her Performer's Certificate from Purchase before attending graduate school.

Holly Hare, Performed National Anthem

A resident of Bitinger, MD, Ms Hare is receiving her Masters degree in music and earned an undergraduate degree in music from Purchase College in 2006. As a member of the Purchase Opera, she has performed in productions of Hansel und Gretel, Dialogues des Carmelites, Le Nozze di Figaro, Die Zauberflote and Carmen. She will attend the Westchester Summer Vocal Institute this June at Sarah Lawrence College and is currently studying with soprano Sherry Overholt.

Purchase College Student Chancellor Award Recipients

Candice DioGuardi, Honeoye Falls, NY, was recognized for her leadership roles with pre-med and tutoring organizations. She has volunteered at Strong Memorial Hospital and organized blood drives on campus.  As a member of the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers, Candice received a Gold Key Award in photography.  She was also a recipient of grants to assist the development of a computer mentoring program.  Candice is a Memorial and a Presidential Scholar for women in the sciences.

Francisco Donoso, Jacksonville Beach, FL, is a Presidential and Merit Scholarship recipient who embodies the Renaissance spirit of the scholar/artist.  His published artistic creations and written vignettes highlight his multiple talents. His community service efforts include founding of the Project Haiti organization, which raised awareness and over $4,000 for the victims of the Haitian earthquake. As a student leader  he was a Resident Assistant, Orientation Leader, and Peer Advisor.

Jennifer Urbanowski, New Milford, CT was a recipient of a Longman Publisher's Writing Award as well as a Laster Scholarship. After two years as a Resident assistant (RA), she had the distinction of serving the third year as a senior RA for Wellness living.  Over this year's winter break Jennifer travelled to Austin, Texas and volunteered to serve as counselor in the OutYouth program. She has also donated her time and energy to the non-[profit organization, Rehabilitation Through the Arts, a program that provides incarcerated men and women an opportunity for personal development through theatre and the arts.

Scholar Athlete Awards

Recipients of Chancellor Scholar Athlete Awards with GPAs of 3.7 or above and accomplishments in their respective sports include: Nico Mareca (Men's Tennis), Kaitlyn Raitz (Women's Swim), Rachel Perrone (Women's Basketball) and Colline Laninga (Women's Tennis).

Thayer Fellowship in the Arts and Patricia Kerr Ross Award

Jenna Josepher, a BFA in Graphic Design from the Purchase College School of Visual Arts shares both the Thayer Fellowship in the Arts and the Patricia Kerr Ross Award with Ilari Kaila, Ph.D a music and composition student from Stony Brook University.

The awards honor students for exemplary achievements in the Arts.


Purchase College State University of New York is a major institution of higher education encompassing the liberal arts and sciences, professional training in the visual and performing arts, and continuing education and liberal studies, along with the Neuberger Museum of Art and The Performing Arts Center.