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Proud moms watch as area students graduate; UB, St. Bonaventure, GCC hold ceremonies

The University at Buffalo's 166th Commencement on Sunday coincided with Mother's Day, making the day extra special for some moms.

"Seeing her graduate made it the best Mother's Day ever," said Ann DeFrancis, whose daughter Andrea received a bachelor's in communications. "Now they don't even have to buy me a gift."

Some grads, like Joe Seda, merged the two occasions. His graduation cap read: "I Love Mom."

"It's a wonderful moment," said Susan Seda, Joe's mother. "He's my fourth and last child to graduate, so now they'll be taking care of themselves. This moment is the nicest Mother's Day present."

The Class of 2012 was sent into the world with congratulatory and inspirational words from a variety of speakers during the ceremony in the packed Alumni Arena on the North Campus.

UB President Satish K. Tripathi told them the economic crisis is waning, and graduates must do their part to strengthen society.

"Take what you've learned and share it for the greater good of the public," he said.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer told the class to "Go for it!" adding that they're entering the world with two advantages: deft knowledge of technology as graduates in the Internet age, and a sound and respected education from a university that is "well-recognized."

With a spirited poem, Brittany A. Sagar, the student speaker, praised her fellow graduates' years of diligence.

"I am inspired by all of you, and your accomplishments today should inspire you, too," said Sagar, who received an English degree.

>Focused on finding jobs

The commencement was one of 14 this month, in which more than 5,800 UB students will graduate. Newly minted graduates beamed with pride and exuded optimism about their future. They expressed no concerns about the economy or the job market.

"I have a couple job interviews lined up here and back home," said Josh Copeland, an Ohio resident who got a degree in geography and played safety for UB's football team. "Any degree from UB is a great degree, so I'm excited to see what will happen during the next phase of my life."

Andrea DeFrancis, of Long Island, will be working for a matchmaking agency and interning at a record label in New York City. She started looking for employment opportunities during her sophomore year.

"I'm on the grind, always hustling," she said. "I'm just motived. My parents inspire me."

Seda, of Yonkers, received a degree in economics and has a job waiting for him with a New York City construction company, where he'll be a field engineer.

"It's exciting," he said. "I've interned for the company the last five years."

Fred Branch, who earned a geography degree with a minor in international business, will interview for an accounting position next month. Branch said UB taught him how to network and that he'll uncover employment prospects through that process.

"I'm not stressed, because I'm prepared," said Branch, who was a linebacker on the school's football team and Copeland's roommate.

Other students, like Gary Bolduc, will continue their education. Bolduc graduated summa cum laude with a degree in math, and he will pursue a master's degree at UB. He transferred to UB two years ago and didn't know he had the grades to receive the highest academic distinction. He didn't learn he had earned the honor until right before the ceremony, and the news was a special Mother's Day surprise for his mother.

"I just started crying because we had no idea," said Monique Bolduc, through more tears. "It's always great to have a child graduate. I'm really proud of him."

>'The good became the great'

Elsewhere Sunday, 722 graduates of St. Bonaventure University heard Duquesne University President Charles J. Dougherty and student speaker Brian R. Michel give commencement addresses in the Reilly Center Arena.

Michel, who earned a bachelor's in marketing from St. Bonaventure in 2011 and his MBA on Sunday, talked about the transformation that occurred while he was in college.

"When you come to Bona, you'll find that it's not you who changes the university, but rather it's the Bona community that changes you," he said.

Michel recalled experiences ranging from learning to overcome academic challenges to realizing the need to go beyond checkbook empathy.

"As a community, when disaster struck, in true Franciscan fashion we learned it was simply not enough to accompany prayer with a check in the mail to aid the victims we saw on television. Instead, we came together as a community through Bona Responds and threw ourselves on the front lines to help when others thought it was impossible," Michel said. "This truly served as a testament to Bona's commitment to serving the needs of others."

Such transformations meant that "followers became leaders, thinkers became innovators, underclassmen became upperclassmen -- the good became the great," Michel told fellow graduates.

"Today we join the ranks of the great: the thousands of St. Bonaventure alumni around the world. When faced with challenge, we saw opportunity. Four years ago, we were given the opportunity to achieve greatness, and today, as the class of 2012, we stand as a testament to this success."

>GCC graduates more than 900

Also Sunday, newly installed Genesee Community College President James M. Sunser gave the commencement address before more than 900 graduates and their families in the GCC gymnasium.

The graduates included those who earned degrees in August 2011 and this year's 508 students.