SUNY College at Old Westbury
Number of graduates
1,069; 987 bachelor's degrees, 82 master's degrees
Donald J. Meltzer, chief executive of Tensar Corp., an Atlanta-based maker of construction products, recounted the high points of his life, from growing up in Hicksville and earning a bachelor's degree at Old Westbury to turning around several companies. "If overcoming adversity is what life is fundamentally all about," he said, "honesty, integrity and compassion are the way life should be lived."
Paraskevas Nicholas Savva, who is Student Government Association president and received a bachelor's degree in politics, economics and law, quoted his late mathematics professor Jong Pil Lee, who used to tell students: "Don't give up, there is more than one way to climb a mountain." Savva, 21, of Lindenhurst, added: "It may have taken drive, dedication and a few Red Bulls, but we can finally say that we did it. We made it to the top of that mountain."
Carole J. Martin, 51, mental health counseling
"Being able to help people challenge themselves to grow is a real privilege," said Martin, of East Quogue, who plans to pursue a doctorate degree.
Ashlee Harwood, 22, media and communications
The Bronx resident said she hopes to work in public relations in the fashion industry: "My next step in life is to continue to make my family proud and myself proud."
Cassandra Castma, 23, psychology
"I like to pick the minds of people," said Castma, of Westbury, who plans to study nursing at Stony Brook University. "I want to become a mental health nurse practitioner so that I can help people and better myself."
Joseph Paiva, 22, adolescence education
"I want to help students find the skills they will need for the future," said Pavia, of Hicksville, who wants to be a history teacher.
Scott Beck, 34, taxation
"I've been preparing my own taxes for years," said Beck, of Sayville. "I just realized this would be a good path for me, I find taxation very interesting."
- Compiled by James T. Madore