It was hot and humid on July 13, 2018, but that didn’t stop more than 400 graduates, their families, and their friends from celebrating in downtown Albany, New York,. With their loved ones looking on, the graduates crossed the stage at the Empire State Plaza Convention Hall to celebrate the end of many months or years of hard work, dedication, and sacrifice, but even more so, the realization of a dream come true.
Graduates came from across the United States and the world to celebrate earning their degrees; from Louisiana and Georgia, to Australia and Japan. Thirty-three percent of our graduates were active military or veterans. The oldest graduate was Bachelor of Science in Business graduate Jon Anderson from Avondale, Arizona, at 72 years old, and our youngest graduate was Dorothy Jean Tillman from Chicago, Illinois, at 12 years old, who received a Bachelor of Science in Liberal Arts. Four hundred graduates came to Commencement, but the class of 2018 comprises 5,077 graduates with 5,137 degrees earned.
President Baldwin addressed the crowd, reminding everyone that at Excelsior, “We have a unique contribution to the realization of the American promise that anyone regardless of their economic or social status should be free to earn their degree.” Indeed, this year’s graduates came with unique backgrounds and fascinating stories, but one thing was certain: they all worked hard to earn their degree.
Melinda Villena, who earned a Bachelor of Science in Technology, flew from Japan with her family to attend Commencement. It took Villena, who is in the Navy, 17 years to earn her degree and she was excited to be the first of her siblings to earn a bachelor’s and be a role model for her daughter. Greg and Vonda Loats and their daughter, Faith Potter, earned their degrees this year and were happy to celebrate together as they all walked the stage on Friday. Lakeya Collins traveled from Georgia to celebrate receiving her associate degree in nursing in hour of her late son. She credited many late nights and practicing with other classmates as a way she persevered. She was determined to complete her degree and show her other two children that even when tragedy strikes, you can make it through and accomplish anything.
Graduates came together with friends, family, and Excelsior staff and faculty to celebrate this momentous occasion. It was only one day, but the degrees graduates earned and the memories they made will be a reminder of their accomplishments and dreams fulfilled.