Nearly 620 receive degrees at Mount Saint Mary College Commencement

May 20, 2017

Joe Borden of Newburgh, N.Y. shakes the hand of Dr. David Kennett, Mount Saint Mary College president, upon receiving his master’s degree in business administration on Saturday, May 20. 


Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh, N.Y. recognized nearly 620 graduates and two honorary degree recipients at its 54th annual Commencement Ceremony on Saturday, May 20.

Of the 619 total graduates, the college awarded 121 master’s degrees and 498 bachelor’s degrees. More than 160 students earned degrees in nursing and related fields, and another 140 earned degrees in business.

As a bagpipe skirl filled the air, the long procession of graduates headed to the ceremony, which was packed with their families and friends. James Finn Cotter, the college’s longest serving professor, was once again Master of Ceremonies. Saturday marked Cotter’s 38th time at the helm.

The graduating students hailed from a dozen states: Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, Missouri, North Carolina, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Tennessee.

The ceremony was presided over by Charles Frank, chair of the Board of Trustees of Mount Saint Mary College. The invocation was given by Fr. Francis Amodio, O.Carm., college chaplain and director of Campus Ministry.


Left to right: Alvin Mann ‘16, a 94-year-old World War II veteran and honorary degree recipient; Charles Frank, chair of the Board of Trustees of Mount Saint Mary College; Dr. David Kennett, president of Mount Saint Mary College; and John McAvoy, chairman, president, and CEO of Consolidated Edison Inc.


Dr. David Kennett, president of Mount Saint Mary College, congratulated the faculty, the parents, and the seniors on a job well done.

“The greatest thing about the Mount is its people, especially the students,” Kennett said. “I’ve been impressed by the quality of your research, the achievement of your athletics teams, your cheer, and your deep concern for others that you exhibit by the extent of your voluntary activity here in the community. You deserve thanks for that, and I thank you sincerely.”

He added, “Although you cease to be students, Mount Saint Mary College will always be your home. These beautiful grounds are still yours. You will always be welcomed home.”

The graduating students then heard from commencement speaker and honorary degree recipient John McAvoy, chairman, president, and chief executive officer of Consolidated Edison Inc. McAvoy was honored for his role as an outstanding business leader and his long-standing commitment to communities across New York State.

McAvoy oversees Consolidated Edison’s two regulated utilities, Con Edison Company of New York, and Orange and Rockland Utilities, which energize the lives of the 10 million people in its service territory. Under his leadership, Con Edison has invested more than $2.6 billion in renewable energy projects through its Clean Energy Businesses.

He serves on the board of directors of the American Gas Association, the Edison Electric Institute, the Partnership for New York City, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, and The Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City. He also serves on the board of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.

McAvoy holds an MBA from New York University and a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Manhattan College. He is a graduate of the David Rockefeller Fellows Program.

Prior to becoming chairman of Con Edison, McAvoy served as president and chief executive officer of Orange and Rockland Utilities, and senior vice president of Central Operations at Con Edison of New York. He has held numerous positions in operations and engineering during his 37 years with the company.


Honorary degree recipient and commencement speaker John McAvoy, chairman, president, and chief executive officer of Consolidated Edison Inc., told the new Mount Saint Mary College graduates to be tenacious and “team players” throughout their career. 


McAvoy gave the graduates three tips for success in their careers. First, he encouraged the graduates to be “relentless” in their self-improvement efforts. Students should employ “persistence, tenacity, [and] an unwavering sense of commitment” in the workplace and their personal lives, he noted. “Winston Churchill’s quote captures it: ‘Never, never, never quit.’”

The second tip was to be “a team player,” he said. “Most issues and challenges are complex, and it takes the power of a team to solve them,” explained McAvoy. “Empathy may be the most needed characteristic, along with self-awareness, self-control, and social skills. These are all traits that need to be practiced and honed to become a great team player.”

The last and most important element for success, he revealed, is integrity. “Integrity is not just keeping your hand out of someone else’s wallet, but a willingness to stand by an ideal, a principle, and do what you think is right,” he said.

McAvoy added, “Expect nothing but the very best from yourself, and you will always be proud of what you have done, which is amongst the most important measures of success.”

Alvin Mann of Cuddebackville, N.Y., a 94-year-old World War II veteran and retired businessman, also received an honorary doctor of humane letters, in recognition of his dedicated service to his country and his commitment to lifelong learning.

Mann earned his bachelor’s degree in history from the Mount in May 2016. His hands-on experience of the subject gave him a unique outlook on his coursework.

In the early 1940s, Mann joined the war effort as a merchant seaman. By 1946 when he left the service, he had worked his way up to second engineer.

After his time in the Armed Forces, Mann opened a short term staffing service in Manhattan called Temporary Office Services of New York. He supplied clients with secretaries, typists, clerks, bookkeepers, and more. He continued running the multi-million dollar business for some 25 years.

“I’m humbled and grateful for this distinction,” said Mann. “I always planned to visit my alma mater, but this really makes me hold my head high. My thanks to my advisors, my wonderful, knowledgeable instructors – especially my IT tutors – the finance office, and to all the students who believed I really was an aging Baby Boomer.”

Mann has one son, two daughters, and five grandchildren. He will be marrying his best friend, Gertrude Mokotoff, the former mayor of Middletown, N.Y., on August 5 of this year.

“We’ll be married in front of our seven children,” said Mann. “Ladies and gentian, I’m so honored to be marrying Gertrude…that’s the story of my life, and I love it.”

History-political science major Nirmala Singh of Middletown, N.Y. displays her diploma at the Mount’s 54th annual Commencement on Saturday, May 20. 


Bernadette Claravall of Wantagh, N.Y., senior class president, thanked the professors and staff of Mount Saint Mary College for their unwavering commitment to her and her fellow graduates. She also thanked her family for being there over the course of her college journey.

“You will always need your family,” Claravall reminded her fellow graduates. “If there is one thing that has remained constant in our entire lives, it is the love and support from our family and friends that embraces us every day.”

She added the same tenacity that got the graduates through college will serve them well as they move on to the next chapters of their lives.

“I wish you all the best of luck,” she said. “I know that your hard work and your hearts will lead you to many great destinations. Congratulations to the Class of 2017.”

The Faculty Award was presented to Maureen Markel, professor of information technology. Markel, who has taught at the Mount for more nearly four decades, will be retiring at the end of the academic year. During her time at the Mount, she served as chair of the division and helped to oversee the development of several new programs.

“I’m truly so honored, so humbled, and so touched,” said Markel. “Thank you, my beloved faculty and institution.”

Ranked a Top-Tier Regional University by U.S. News & World Report, Mount Saint Mary College offers strong career preparation in health professions, education, business, psychology, social services, and liberal arts.


John Chiaia of Brooklyn, N.Y. (center) celebrates graduating at Mount Saint Mary College’s 54th annual Commencement.