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Paul Smith’s College graduates 177 students

May 11, 2017
By BEN GOCKER - For the News ( , Lake Placid News

PAUL SMITHS - It was a blustery Saturday, May 6 as Paul Smith's College graduated 177 students and sent them off into the world with speeches, song and awards.

The college's 70th commencement ceremony was held on campus beneath a large white tent on the shores of Lower St. Regis Lake. The rain that had been threatening all afternoon finally came down near the end of the ceremony, during Alumni Board President Alyson Bennett's speech. Just as quickly as the rain cam, however, it disappeared.

By the time college President Cathy Dove instructed the graduates to move their tassels from right to left, the clouds had parted and the sun was out to greet the students as they exited the tent through a corridor of clapping faculty.

Article Photos

Paul Smith’s College professor Brett McLead, right, congratulates a recent graduate Saturday, May 6 at the college’s 70th commencement ceremony.
(News photo — Ben Gocker)

After the singing of the U.S. and Canadian national anthems, Dove introduced the 2017 class speaker, senior class president and captain of the women's woodsmen team Maria Urban.

"All of us sitting here today are an illustration of our ability to reach a milestone," Urban said. "It was not always easy, and we did not do it alone, but nonetheless, we made it. We're capable of succeeding in the academic realm, and it is now time that we go and succeed in the workforce. When the day comes that we do succeed in the work force, we cannot forget who helped us to achieve those successes: caring teachers, tutors, coaches, RAs and fellow students working together to make your successes possible. Our ability to prevail in challenging circumstances can be traced back to our time here at Paul Smith's College."

Urban also presented the college with a senior class gift: large wooden wagons to help students transport their belongings from the parking lot to the dorm rooms during the annual move-in process.

The commencement speaker for the ceremony was Jeane Coakley, an Emmy-award-winning television anchor and sports reporter for SportsNet New York who grew up in Beekmantown.

"The students chose Ms. Coakley to be their commencement speaker because she is a true inspiration and leader having made a name for herself coming from our region," President Dove said. "Plus she absolutely knows how the winters are up here."

Coakley, who admitted to being "slightly terrified" to deliver the commencement speech, spoke about her own travails in securing a career in broadcast sports journalism.

"If you have a plan, a blueprint of the way you think your life will be, rip it up, Coakley said. "Because that's not the way it's going to play out. And you know what? It's OK.

"This small town girl has been on the sidelines of multiple Super Bowls, been to several Brickyard 400s, Indy 500s, NCAA Final Fours, all-star games, flown with the Blue Angels, interviewed the likes of Larry Bird, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Peyton Manning, Derek Jeter, LeBron James. I have been on red carpets, rubbed elbows with famous actors and actresses, and, oh yeah, I ended up marrying the only guy to ever be drafted in the first round of two professional sports. Trust me, most of the time I have to pinch myself and ask, is this really my life?"

Numerous students received awards during the ceremony. The college's most prestigious prize, the Paul Smith's College Outstanding Graduate Award, went to two students: Jonathan Stetler, fisheries and wildlife sciences; and Kyle Brush, surveying technology.

After the ceremony, Brush stood with his family on the edge of Lower St. Regis Lake posing for photographs.

"I feel very happy and proud to graduate from the same school my father graduated from," Brush said.

Before heading home to Blue Point in Long Island to work for the family surveying business, Brush plans to spend time in Italy with his girlfriend.

"We're going to see the sights," he said.



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