SUNY Empire State College held a commencement ceremony Saturday for its Long Island students at LIU Post in Brookville.

NUMBER OF GRADUATES

14 master's degrees, 16 advanced graduate certificates, 219 bachelor's and 52 associate degrees.

FACULTY SPEAKER

James Robinson, professor of historical studies

Robinson said he learned important lessons from his students, many of whom earned degrees while working full time or raising families. "You have given me a deeper appreciation of life, of courage and of love than before I started this job," he said.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

STUDENT SPEAKERS

April Lowry, Bay Shore, community and human services

The mother of two, who works for Hope for Youth Amityville and volunteers at a homeless shelter, spoke about the perseverance it took to earn her bachelor's degree. "There were times when I almost wanted to give up, and I thought nobody cared. It was the faculty who gave me the tough love I needed," she said.

@Newsday

Vickie Moller, Ronkonkoma, cultural studies

Moller, a writer, also spoke of the graduates' unconventional paths through life. "We have taken risks and struggled to keep a sense of balance in our lives, sometimes teetering on the precipice of our ability to endure," she said.

GUEST SPEAKER

Marian Conway, Lindenhurst, New York Community Bank Foundation executive director

Conway, who earned bachelor's and master's degrees at SUNY Empire State, told graduates they "raised the bar" in their communities. "You have already made a difference in this world. You demonstrated that the power that is knowledge is available to anyone willing to do the work at any age, at any point in their lives."

advertisement | advertise on newsday

STUDENTS

Ada Harvey, 57, Glen Cove, bachelor's in community and human services

"It's amazing and bittersweet, because my mom passed away in October. It took 13 years to get here. My mom said I would make it, and I just wish she was there with me."

Rose Gietschier, 53, Roosevelt, bachelor's in community and human services

"It's awesome. I feel a sense of personal achievement. For 35 years, I've been going toward this place. I just wanted to be a role model for my children."

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Stephen Littman, 46, Shirley, bachelor's in history

"It feels good . . . The deal was I had to graduate college before she did," he said, pointing to his daughter, a junior in college.

Brian Kuddar, 37, Glen Oaks, Queens, associate's in art

He said he worked full time installing heating and air conditioning systems while working toward his degree. "It's an accomplishment. I was torn between finishing school and earning a paycheck."

- WILL JAMES