A student wearing a Palestinian flag on her cap made a statement by walking out of the ceremony before it ended. NewsdayTV's Virginia Huie reports.  Credit: Newsday/Photo Credit: A.J. Singh

Stony Brook University’s graduation ceremony went off Friday without disruption as the university saluted its most generous benefactor, James Simons, who died exactly a week ago.

Before some 7,700 graduates seated on the field at Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium, the university flashed photographs of Simons and his wife, Marilyn, on large video screens as the school’s president, Maurie McInnis, lauded him.

Simons, a former Stony Brook math department chairman who later founded Renaissance Technologies LLC hedge fund, last year donated $500 million to Stony Brook. It was the largest unrestricted gift to a college in U.S. history, McInnis said.

“Someone who believed wholeheartedly in the power of a Stony Brook education was Jim Simons,” she told the graduates. “I am certain Jim would be so proud of you today.”

The campus has been rocked this month by pro-Palestinian protests that ended May 1 with the arrests of 29 people, including two professors, for disorderly conduct after they refused to move their protest site.

McInnis barely won a censure vote by the Faculty Senate on Monday for her handling of the protest and the arrests. Campus police detained some protesters for hours and seized their phones, keeping the devices for more than a week before returning them.

There was only one mention of the topic Friday, when student speaker Tim Giorlando listed some of the problems facing the world, including “a humanitarian crisis in Gaza.” That elicited a sizable cheer of support from the graduates.

One central theme of the ceremony was that Stony Brook provides a top-rate education at an affordable price.

Carl Heastie, the speaker of the New York State Assembly and a Stony Brook graduate, told the students that “if you have friends that are graduating from other schools that cost a lot more money and they think they’re more prestigious … I want you to tell them that you are smarter than all your friends that graduated from Columbia or Princeton and all of that … All of you were smart enough to get an Ivy League education at a fraction of the cost.”

McInnis noted that as a teenager, Heastie had been accepted to both Stony Brook and Massachusetts Institute of Technology — and chose Stony Brook.

At Stony Brook, he was an active campus leader and worked as a reporter at a publication called Black World that aimed at giving voice to Black and Hispanic students, she said.

While McInnis did not mention the pro-Palestinian protests, she sent out a message on the university’s commencement page commenting on the graduating class.

“The Class of 2024 wants to leave its mark on the world, and for society to be better because of it,” she wrote. “Being an advocate and innovator doesn’t always make for an easy path forward, but I couldn’t be prouder of your ambition and willingness to make the world a brighter, healthier, more just place. ... I cannot imagine a group more poised to change the world.”

Stony Brook University’s graduation ceremony went off Friday without disruption as the university saluted its most generous benefactor, James Simons, who died exactly a week ago.

Before some 7,700 graduates seated on the field at Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium, the university flashed photographs of Simons and his wife, Marilyn, on large video screens as the school’s president, Maurie McInnis, lauded him.

Simons, a former Stony Brook math department chairman who later founded Renaissance Technologies LLC hedge fund, last year donated $500 million to Stony Brook. It was the largest unrestricted gift to a college in U.S. history, McInnis said.

“Someone who believed wholeheartedly in the power of a Stony Brook education was Jim Simons,” she told the graduates. “I am certain Jim would be so proud of you today.”

The campus has been rocked this month by pro-Palestinian protests that ended May 1 with the arrests of 29 people, including two professors, for disorderly conduct after they refused to move their protest site.

McInnis barely won a censure vote by the Faculty Senate on Monday for her handling of the protest and the arrests. Campus police detained some protesters for hours and seized their phones, keeping the devices for more than a week before returning them.

There was only one mention of the topic Friday, when student speaker Tim Giorlando listed some of the problems facing the world, including “a humanitarian crisis in Gaza.” That elicited a sizable cheer of support from the graduates.

One central theme of the ceremony was that Stony Brook provides a top-rate education at an affordable price.

Carl Heastie, the speaker of the New York State Assembly and a Stony Brook graduate, told the students that “if you have friends that are graduating from other schools that cost a lot more money and they think they’re more prestigious … I want you to tell them that you are smarter than all your friends that graduated from Columbia or Princeton and all of that … All of you were smart enough to get an Ivy League education at a fraction of the cost.”

McInnis noted that as a teenager, Heastie had been accepted to both Stony Brook and Massachusetts Institute of Technology — and chose Stony Brook.

At Stony Brook, he was an active campus leader and worked as a reporter at a publication called Black World that aimed at giving voice to Black and Hispanic students, she said.

While McInnis did not mention the pro-Palestinian protests, she sent out a message on the university’s commencement page commenting on the graduating class.

“The Class of 2024 wants to leave its mark on the world, and for society to be better because of it,” she wrote. “Being an advocate and innovator doesn’t always make for an easy path forward, but I couldn’t be prouder of your ambition and willingness to make the world a brighter, healthier, more just place. ... I cannot imagine a group more poised to change the world.”

A tipster says he told the state about buried drums at Bethpage Community Park nearly a decade ago. Newsday's Ken Buffa reports. Credit: Newsday/Daddona / Pfost / Villa Loarca

Uncovering the truth about the chemical drums A tipster says he told the state about buried drums at Bethpage Community Park nearly a decade ago. Newsday's Ken Buffa reports.

A tipster says he told the state about buried drums at Bethpage Community Park nearly a decade ago. Newsday's Ken Buffa reports. Credit: Newsday/Daddona / Pfost / Villa Loarca

Uncovering the truth about the chemical drums A tipster says he told the state about buried drums at Bethpage Community Park nearly a decade ago. Newsday's Ken Buffa reports.

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