Stony Brook University graduates at their commencement Friday at Kenneth P....

Stony Brook University graduates at their commencement Friday at Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium. Credit: Yellow House Images/Andrew Theodorakis

Stony Brook University held its 59th commencement Friday in Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium.

Number of graduates

4,500 bachelor’s degrees, 2,245 master’s degrees, 630 doctoral and professional degrees and 250 certificates.

Commencement speaker

Alan Alda, award-winning actor and the inspiration behind the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University, received a Doctor of Fine Arts honorary degree, conferred on behalf of the State University of New York by SUNY trustee Cary F. Staller and university President Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr. 

Alda emphasized that the center's creation fulfilled a longtime dream for him and encouraged graduates "to find what's under the surface in your life." Pinpoint something that is motivating, he said, "a dream of your own" to work hard toward. "But here is the thing. If you dig down under the surface and bring to the surface your own dream … then the work you do to accomplish that dream won't seem like work. It will seem like fun — and that is how it has been for me."

Student speaker

T’Kheya-D’Vrehy Yisrael, 22, a Brooklyn native graduating with a double major in biochemistry and sociology with a concentration in psychology, was president of the Black Student Union and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, as well as committee member for numerous diversity and advocacy councils. “College is hard, but Stony Brook is harder and we made it!” she said. "Standing here in front of all of you today is as terrifying and exhilarating as the first time I stepped foot on the Stony Brook campus …We made it. We are the leaders and the innovators, the thinkers and the doers, and experts at turning our failures into the catalyst of our success." 


Odean Gilzene, 22, the Bronx, technological systems management

Odean Gilzene.

Odean Gilzene. Credit: Yellow House Images/Andrew Theodorakis

"I'm excited. It was four long years, but it felt like it went by in a snap," said Gilzene, who plays football for the school. "I still have another year of football and I will be going to graduate school. It was a long, difficult process, but the classes were very informative and I learned a lot and grew a lot."

Julia Martinez, 26, Brooklyn, linguistics, pre-med 

Julia Martinez.

Julia Martinez. Credit: Yellow House Images/Andrew Theodorakis

"It’s a long time coming," Martinez said. "I have been at Stony Brook for seven years and so this is the biggest day of my life — finally graduating. I am beyond words excited. I had really great professors who were honest and straightforward with me, and they were very real people."   

Aaron Jackson, 24, Queens, athletic training

Aaron Jackson.

Aaron Jackson. Credit: Yellow House Images/Andrew Theodorakis

"In 2016 I transferred, and it’s been a great experience with the resources we have available and the mentors and faculty and staff," said Jackson, who is going to Temple University to pursue his master's. "They really have been a big help. Six years ago I started school and it has been a long ride. But I am glad this journey is about to be over and I am ready to take the next step in life."

Vikrant Bhatnagar, 21, Great Neck, biology pre-med 

Vikrant Bhatnagar.

Vikrant Bhatnagar. Credit: Yellow House Images/Andrew Theodorakis

"I'm very nervous and excited at the same time," Bhatnagar said. "I feel like Stony Brook really prepared me for this moment. There are a lot of challenges and Stony Brook sets you up for high standards, and if you don’t meet those standards, you really realize it. … And it makes you a better person, because you have to self-reflect a lot and realize what you need to do."

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