May 18, 2013
Newburgh, NY -
A bright, sunny day during Mount Saint Mary College’s 50th
annual commencement ceremony ushered in a new era for 627
bachelor’s and master’s degree candidates.
The tent on the Dominican Center Field buzzed with anticipation
as thousands of parents, relatives and friends of the
graduates-to-be gathered to witness the academic achievement.
Inside Aquinas Hall, students could hardly contain their
excitement as they waited to walk across the stage and into their
future. At last, traditional bagpipe music filled the air, and
James Finn Cotter, longtime Mount English professor, once again
bore the mace, leading the long procession into the tent.
With faculty and administrators seated on stage, Mount president
Fr. Kevin E. Mackin, OFM, continued his tradition of inviting the
graduating class to “give yourself a hug” for a job well done.
He encouraged them to continue using their skills of mind and
habits of heart.
“When called to choose in our work between excellence and
quality, and what is slipshod or just enough, choose excellence and
quality,” said Fr. Mackin. “Go the extra mile to make something
just right because it is the better and worthy thing to do.”
Fr. Mackin added, “Congratulations, Godspeed and God bless you
Class of 2013, the Mount’s newest alumni.”
The college conferred honorary doctorate degrees upon three
accomplished speakers: William Kaplan, successful entrepreneur and
philanthropist; James Patterson, best-selling author; and Sandra
Gerry, chair of the Sullivan Renaissance.
A staunch supporter of the Mount, William Kaplan surveyed the
graduates with a smile, before exclaiming, “This is awesome!”
He emphasized that Mount graduates have made a huge difference
in Newburgh, the city he loves.
“On behalf of this community, we thank you,” he said. “You’ve
been absolutely amazing.”
The entrepreneur has provided employment for thousands: at the
Regal Bag Corporation, which he started in Newburgh shortly after
World War II, and then at A.C. Moore arts and crafts, which he
co-founded and grew from a single store to 130 outlets. He also
generously collaborated to build numerous other organizations,
serving on the Board of Trustees of St. Luke’s Hospital, Norstar
Bank of the Hudson Valley, the Hudson-Delaware Council of the Boy
Scouts of America, the Jewish Federation of Orange County, Hospice
of Orange and Sullivan Counties, and Mount Saint Mary College.
Long a catalyst for grassroots projects, Kaplan serves as chair
of the Board of Directors of the Newburgh Armory Unity Center: a
collaboration of people from organizations and businesses – and
with many Mount volunteers – with the aims of education and
Kaplan thanked Mount Hispanic studies teacher Karen
Eberle-McCarthy for her and her student volunteers’ English as a
second language classes at the Armory. He used the tireless
volunteerism of Maria Moorman, Hispanic studies major and member of
the graduating class, as an example.
He also recognized education professors Janine Bixler and David
Gallagher, as well as all the other Mount faculty and students who
have lent their time and skills to the project.
Kaplan has supported the Mount through scholarships and projects
including the Hudson Hall renovation; Elaine and William Kaplan
Recreation Center and fields; the Mathematics, Science &
Technology Center; and the Dominican Center. Kaplan continues to
show faith in the City of Newburgh, investing in projects which
enrich the lives of residents. He has also championed the National
Purple Heart Hall of Honor.
Newburgh native and worldwide literary phenomenon James
Patterson returned to his hometown to congratulate the newest Mount
“You guys made it. All right!” he said enthusiastically,
prompting a cheer from the seniors.
The author pointed out that he was born in Newburgh’s St. Luke’s
Cornwall Hospital, just a few blocks south of the college.
“It’s really, really, really great to be back home,” said
Patterson. “I can honestly say that this is where I started out as
a writer. The best-selling writer in the world comes from
Patterson described life as a juggling act, wherein work is a
rubber ball that will bounce back if dropped. But family,
friendship, spirituality, and health are made of glass – and will
scuff and shatter if they hit the ground.
The message was simple: “Strive for more balance in your life,”
Patterson holds The New York Times record and a Guinness World
Record for the most hardcover fiction bestselling titles – 89
total. The prolific writer’s latest four books, all being published
this year, are “12th of Never,” “Second Honeymoon,” “Mistress,” and
“Middle School: How I Survived Bullies, Broccoli, and Snake Hill.”
His critically acclaimed “Maximum Ride” series debuted on The New
York Times bestsellers list at #1 and the series has so far spent
more than 100 weeks on the list. He also created the top-selling
detective series featuring fictional psychologist Alex Cross.
In total, Patterson’s books have sold an estimated 275 million
In addition to being an author, Patterson is an advocate, with
the James Patterson Pageturner Awards, rewarding others for
spreading the joy of reading, and also James Patterson’s College
Sandra Gerry, creator of the Sullivan Renaissance, encouraged
graduates to give back to their communities.
Gerry believes that residents can use flowers and gardens to
enhance the appearance of Sullivan County, while also cultivating
community pride and spirit. Now completing its 13th year, Sullivan
Renaissance has grown into a year-round community development
program involving thousands of volunteers from all 15 towns in the
“Each of you can make a difference,” she said. “No matter how
small the contribution, the collective impact for good can be
enormous. As you sit here today ready to receive your diplomas, you
are in the perfect place to give back, to pay it forward, to
volunteer of yourself. I challenge you to make a difference by
sharing some of your great talents and resources, and to lead by
In addition to beautification and environmental efforts as a
“renaissance woman,” for many years Gerry has been an integral part
of the Sullivan County Community College Foundation’s Annual
Scholarship Benefit Gala. As an educator and having been involved
in the teaching profession, the success of scholarship programs is
one of her special concerns, raising more than $1 million in
scholarship funds. She is also Director of Allocations for the
Beaverkill Foundation, established by the Gerrys to assist
charitable causes in Sullivan County.
Gerry serves on the board of the Gerry Foundation, Inc., as
well: the family foundation established in part to benefit the
economy by developing the world class performing arts center,
Bethel Woods, at the site of the original Woodstock Festival in
As it came time to receive diplomas, hundreds of hearts beat
faster and delight washed over the graduates and their families.
With a handshake and a beaming smile from Fr. Mackin, the
candidates transitioned from students to alumni.
The grads have a lot to look forward to. A survey revealed that
six months after graduating, 84 percent of responding 2012 Mount
grads were employed. An impressive 77 percent of 2012 nursing grads
responded that they were making $50,000 and up per year.
Three quarters of responding 2012 Mount grads planned to earn a
graduate degree. Many of them continue in the Mount’s three
master’s degree areas – nursing, business and education.