Under the brightest of skies, Vaughn College on Saturday (May 19) gave warm welcome to its newest class of graduates, celebrating the accomplishments of 300-plus newly minted alumni at its annual commencement.
The College put on its best face to recognize the Class of 2012, whose family and friends came from far and near to celebrate a day several years in the making. Among the graduates was Renato Trifu, who brought a family contingent from Lima, Peru, where he was born.
"It's a great feeling of accomplishment," said Trifu, who earned a bachelor's degree in airport management. "It's a very proud day."
"I'm excited and happy," added Yelithza Gonzales, who also received her bachelor of science degree. "I didn't even realize how happy and accomplished I'd feel until now."
The 90-minute ceremony began at 10 a.m. and included a welcome from President John C. Fitzpatrick, who reminded graduates of their enduring bond with Vaughn. "You are now an ambassador for the College," Dr. Fitzpatrick said, "and can share with others the value of the knowledge you have gained."
It continued with the awarding of an honorary doctor of science degree to Carmine Gallo, Eastern Regional Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, who used a 15-minute address to outline the possibilities that exist for Vaughn graduates. "New opportunities come along like a ride on a carousel," Gallo said. "You'll need to find your place in the middle of all this change."
Student speaker Don A. Raghunandan, a summa cum laude graduate with a degree in airport / general management, challenged his classmates to use the skills acquired at Vaughn to become leaders in their fields. "This is where we should establish the foundation for the rest of our lives," said Raghunandan, a Board of Trustees Award winner at Convocation and who founded the College's Circle K club. "In the words of a great person (Gandhi), 'be the change you want to see in the world.' "
Ten members of Vaughn's Board of Trustees were on hand, including Chair Thomas J. McKee, vice president of Natel Engineering Company Inc., who helped to present the honorary degree to Gallo, a decorated member of the FAA's management team. Gallo's office oversees operations at New York's three major airports and three more in the Washington DC area.
"Embrace change," Gallo said. "Be open-minded and flexible in your career. The path you begin today will lead you to success in the field of aviation."
Diplomas were presented to associate, bachelor's and master's degree students before closing words from Dr. Fitzpatrick and receptions for graduates and their families. Pedro Sanchez, who received his bachelor's degree in aviation maintenance management, summed up his classmates' feelings when he said, "It's great to see my blood, sweat and tears duly recognized. I am tasting the sweetness of that."
VAUGHN COLLEGE 2012 COMMENCEMENT: Top, Adrian Morraz receives his diploma, one of 300-plus Vaughn students to graduate on Saturday; center, new graduates celebr ate with the traditional cap toss; bottom from left, Santhos Nyalakonda, Sai Anudeep Meela and Vimal Chanda Gaddipati socialize after the ceremony.