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Class of 2011 treated to some Disney magic
Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Class of 1973 alumnus Karl Holz, President of Disney Cruise Line and New Vacation Operations, addresses the Class of 2011 as keynote speaker of SUNY Fredonia’s annual Commencement ceremony Saturday.

FREDONIA, N.Y. -- May 14, 2011 -- Encouraged to make their own magic by Class of 1973 alumnus and President of Disney Cruise Line and New Vacation Operations Karl L. Holz, more than 1,000 SUNY Fredonia students were honored in the campus’ Steele Hall Arena Saturday as President Dennis L. Hefner conferred bachelor’s and master’s degrees and advanced certificates.

View Commencement Photo Album (74 pics) on Fredonia's Alumni Website>>

Commencement at Fredonia included two nearly identical events at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. to accommodate the large number of students as well as their family and friends, many of whom traveled great distances to join them for this memorable occasion.
Both ceremonies featured remarks from President Hefner, Fredonia College Council Chair Frank Pagano, keynote speaker Holz, and Senior Class President Donald J. Schier, a native of Montgomery, N.Y., who earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Communication/Public Relations. During the morning ceremony, Eunice A. Lewin, a member of the State University of New York Board of Trustees, also welcomed the assembled students and families.
President Hefner welcomed those in attendance by stating, “Today is indeed a special day. For most graduates and their families, today’s Commencement represents the culmination of many years of diligence and effort. It is truly a once-in-a lifetime event, long to be remembered.
“As Fredonia alums, you will have opportunities to advocate for public higher education, and for the education provided by SUNY campuses to the citizens of this state,” Dr. Hefner continued. “Your advocacy and collective support must be clear and constant. In that way, your Fredonia degree will remain impressive to future generations of students who will follow in your footsteps. Together, we can ensure that the State of New York remains unwavering in its commitment to a world-class higher education system that is accessible to all its citizens.”
For full photo gallery, click here>>
In a lighthearted address, Mr. Holz encouraged the graduates, noting, “Your future is a blank slate that is sure to be filled with extraordinary victories, both personal and professional.” He reflected on his time at Fredonia, his years with Disney in a variety of positions, and shared a few personal stories, including lessons he learned along the way which have proved invaluable. He noted, “Hindsight is 20-20, and it’s clear to me today that college is a time when we learn about ourselves, our relationships, the real world and so much more,” adding that Fredonia was also where he met his wife, Wendy.
In addition to its connection to Holz, SUNY Fredonia has had a strong internship program with Disney for years, with 46 students completing credit-bearing internships with the internationally admired corporation in the last four years alone. Then again, for a campus that has a residence hall named Disney in honor of the company’s visionary founder Walt — and, coincidentally, at the urging of Holz and his classmates when he was a student in the early 1970s — his selection as today’s keynote speaker seems not just appropriate, but almost poetic.

A group of Communication Disorders and Sciences graduates gather following their ceremony to share in each other's accomplishments.
Holz spoke of accepting a challenging work assignment while employed by Sky Chefs, and how necessary it was “to be flexible and willing to take a risk to move ahead.” He learned from that experience how important it was to “embrace every opportunity to demonstrate my worth — even when it means being really, really uncomfortable for a while.”
In addition to quoting wordsmith Walt Disney, Holz noted that, “as a leader, you have to inspire people in all the right ways,” with encouragement, trust, and by “walking in their shoes” and “challenging them and holding them to high expectations."
Holz left the graduates with “three nuggets of wisdom” including: “always conduct yourself with integrity,” “use common sense in everything you do,” and “stay optimistic.”
Senior Class President Schier addressed the family, faculty and friends of the Class of 2011 in attendance with personal reflections. He referred to “universal memories” they shared, including the assignment, capstone project or research paper that was so difficult they didn’t know where to begin. “The reason we are here as college students is to push ourselves to learn more, gain knowledge that pertains to our interests and future careers, and earn a degree to say that we prevailed over the countless obstacles we faced as college students,” Schier said. Other shared memories included friends made for a lifetime, and the support of their families.
Schier also noted, “Fredonia has prepared the graduating Class of 2011 with many valuable lessons in education, friendship, family and life lessons.” Following his remarks, he presented President Hefner with a check representing a class gift of scholarship dollars raised through the Class of 2011 Senior Challenge.
At the afternoon ceremony, President Hefner presented the Lanford Presidential Prize, established through the Fredonia College Foundation by Dr. and Mrs. Oscar Lanford, to Rachel R. Foltz of Baltimore, Ohio, who graduated Summa Cum Laude with a concurrent Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and a Bachelor of Science degree in Interdisciplinary Studies/Music Business. The late Dr. Lanford served as Fredonia's ninth president from 1961 to 1971, and was essentially the builder, both physically and intellectually, of the modern Fredonia campus. The annual prize is presented to a student who shows balanced achievement both on- and off-campus, and who exemplifies Fredonia’s ideals while maintaining a strong grade point average. Mrs. Lanford was in attendance and was acknowledged by President Hefner.
Other highlights included several Turkish undergraduates who received diplomas as part of Fredonia’s dual degree program with Ege University in Izmir, Turkey. Student performances were given by the Concert Band and Wind Ensemble, under the direction of Erin Meissner and Dr. Paula Holcomb, respectively, and the Fredonia College Choir, under the direction of Dr. Gerald Gray. A choral work, “Song on May Morning,” based on text by John Milton, was written specially for Commencement by Dr. Robert Deemer, head of the Music Composition area in the Fredonia School of Music. It was dedicated to President Hefner and Dr. Gray. The national anthem was performed at both ceremonies by Kristyn Christman-McCarty, a double major in Music Education and Music Performance who graduated with honors. During the prelude to the afternoon ceremony, the campus welcomed another alumnus, Jerry Surra, ’59, who returned from his Arizona home to conduct “The Fredonia State Alumni March,” an original composition he created as a student more than 50 years ago.
Lastly, posthumous undergraduate degrees were awarded by President Hefner to family representatives of Alfred Davis, Jordan Ondus, Nicholas Spawn and Jessica Webber. They were escorted to the platform by Dr. Dani McKinney of the Department of Psychology, Dr. Ted Schwalbe, chair of the Department of Communication, and Dr. Mojtaba Seyedian, chair of the Department of Business Administration.

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