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Thousands graduate Saturday at area colleges

Eight universities and colleges honored thousands of undergraduate and graduate students during commencement exercises Saturday.

SUNY Buffalo State

SUNY Buffalo State conferred degrees on nearly 2,000 undergraduate and more than 500 graduate students during its 143rd commencement in the college’s Sports Arena. The ceremony covered graduates from December 2014, January, May and coming August degree candidates.

Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte, Class of 1995, received the Young Alumnus Achievement Award and delivered the commencement address at the morning ceremony. Delivering the afternoon address was James Brandys, member of the Buffalo State College Council, who received the President’s Distinguished Service Award. New York State Lt. Gov. Kathleen C. Hochul delivered the evening commencement address honoring graduate students.

Empire State Development Corp. CEO and President Howard A. Zemsky was presented with the College Council Medal. Zemsky was the immediate past chairman of the College Council. Distinguished Alumnus Awards were granted to Roger Wood, president and CEO of Dana Holding Corp.; and businesswoman and philanthropist Jacqueline V. LoRusso.

The following 2015 graduates were honored with the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence in recognition of academic and extracurricular achievements, leadership and service: Diamond Briggs, Chelsea Davidson, Stephanie Kahn, Amy Marciniak and James Martin.

SUNY Fredonia

Nearly 1,400 undergraduate and graduate students received degrees during two ceremonies in Steele Hall Arena.

Keynote speaker and alumnus James Douglas, a Dunkirk native who is director of human resources for the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., addressed the morning commencement. Also participating were Fredonia President Virginia Horvath; Frank Pagano, College Council chairman; and senior class President Anthony Mercedes of Bronx, a communications/public relations major.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. and 2015 Lanford Presidential Prize recipient Antonio Reguilier, of Roosevelt, were featured during the afternoon ceremony.

Canisius College

Catherine M. Burzik, a Jamestown native and leader in the life sciences industry, addressed the college’s 745-member undergraduate class of 2015 in Koessler Athletic Center.

A 1972 alumna, Burzik earned a dual degree in mathematics and classics from Canisius. She went on to earn her master’s degree in mathematics from the University at Buffalo before joining Eastman Kodak as a software engineer. Burzik’s scientific insight and business acumen led to her becoming president and CEO of Kinetic Concepts and led the medical device company, which specializes in regenerative medicine, through a $6.1 million leveraged buyout.

Burzik currently is a general partner at Targeted Technologies, an early stage venture capital firm focused on medical device, life sciences and biotech investments.

Burzik received an honorary doctorate degree during undergraduate commencement ceremonies. She has served as a member and chair of the Canisius College board of trustees. Burzik also continues to advocate for Science Hall, the college’s interdisciplinary science building. She has made two $1 million gifts to the campaign – the largest commitment from an alumna in Canisius’ 144-year history.

Niagara University

Vietnam veteran Kevin Macaulay received an associate degree in the Gallagher Center– the culmination of a long and winding road over 50 years that led him to this moment.

The journey for the Long Island native began when he enrolled in 1965 at NU, where he was a resident assistant and met his future wife, Ann Quigley, a nursing student and captain of the women’s basketball team.

Macaulay had to withdraw after his freshman year when he became ill. Then, he served his country as a Marine. The couple later married and lived in the Long Island area, raising nine children – two of them graduates of Niagara.

In 2001, Macaulay was among the first responders who volunteered in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on New York City. Five years later, he and his wife returned to Western New York, where Macaulay became chief of Lewiston Fire Company No. 1.

After re-enrolling at NU in 2010, Macaulay’s attempts to complete his degree were again thwarted when his wife was diagnosed with cancer. She died in 2012. After her death, he became ill and was unable to continue his studies.

Now 67 and with many health challenges, Macaulay continues to work toward his bachelor of arts degree in history.

Daemen College

Graduate student Laura McGorray made her mark at Daemen in many ways, and the college didn’t lose sight of that when she was honored during the evening commencement ceremony.

McGorray had to overcome two major challenges to achieve her goal of graduating with a doctor of physical therapy degree.

When she first began as an undergraduate in 2009, she was using a wheelchair and motorized scooter to get around as a result of an illness – postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS). Currently able to walk, she received her bachelor’s degree in natural sciences from Daemen.

As a graduate student at Daemen, McGorray was injured in a car crash during the first week of the fall 2014 semester and was out of school for a month. The crash also negatively impacted her POTS progress. Despite the setback, she persevered in completing her last year of doctoral studies. An Akron resident, she recently completed her last clinical rotation for physical therapy and is interested in working in the area of pediatric physical therapy.

Earlier in the afternoon, Gerald Beverly, a forward on the Wildcats men’s basketball team from Rochester, was recognized for his accomplishments, including signing with an agent to play pro ball. Since fall, he has met with several NBA teams. On Saturday, Daemen, for the first time, held separate undergraduate and graduate commencement ceremonies in Kleinhans Music Hall.

D’Youville College

The 107th commencement ceremony in the morning saw 760 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students receiving degrees in Kleinhans Music Hall.

Dr. L. Nelson Hopkins, president and CEO of the Jacobs Institute, delivered the commencement address. The institute was created in memory of the late Dr. Lawrence D. Jacobs by his brother, Jeremy Jacobs, and his family.

Hopkins, a founder of the institute, which is tasked with improving the treatment of vascular disease, was professor and chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery, as well as professor of radiology, at the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, at the University at Buffalo from 1989 to 2013.

He was named SUNY distinguished professor and also serves as chairman of the board of the Gates Institute.

The salutatory address was given by Marissa T. Benzin, a Lancaster native who received both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in occupational therapy.

Niagara County Community College

Award-winning novelist Joyce Carol Oates delivered the keynote address during the college’s 51st commencement ceremony in Seneca Niagara Events Center, Niagara Falls. A total of 1,156 students graduated with associate degrees and certificates.

The Lockport native, who grew up on a farm where she developed a love of literature and writing, attended Syracuse University on a scholarship and graduated as valedictorian in 1960, before going on to earn a master’s degree in English from the University of Wisconsin a year later.

Oates retired from full-time teaching last year after 36 years in Princeton University’s creative writing program. She has been teaching at Stanford University this semester.

Hilbert College

New York Lt. Gov. Kathleen C. Hochul was the featured speaker for Hilbert, where more than 270 graduates received their degrees in the college’s 54th commencement, in the Wesleyan Church of Hamburg. Hochul also was recognized with an honorary doctorate of humane letters.

“As you go forward, it is my sincere hope that you take risks – the kind of risks that if you are bold enough to take, can lead you to the fulfillment of your life,” Hochul told the graduates.

email: krobinson@buffnews.com