Commencement Ceremonies Recognize 2020, December 2021 Graduates
Alexis Bowering ’20 officially graduated from SUNY Oswego in May 2020, and started in August in her role as marketing coordinator at Weapons of Mass Creation in Syracuse, N.Y. She was promoted to communications director at the design, marketing and creative production agency in January 2021.
Despite a turbulent finish to their college experience — overshadowed by the COVID pandemic — members of the Class of 2020 have started their post-Oswego lives on strong footing. A survey of the class indicates that 97 percent of the graduates have a full-time job or are in graduate school. Of those who are employed full time, 84 percent are in the career field of their choice.
Yet, something felt lacking for many of these graduates. Although the college hosted a virtual Commencement ceremony for them, they never had a chance to walk across the stage in cap and gown, and publicly celebrate their college graduation — until now.
“All throughout college everyone spoke of walking across that stage and getting to do it with their friends,” Bowering said. “It just feels great that we were given the opportunity to experience it.”
Bowering served as the class speaker during a special in-person Commencement ceremony on Saturday, Dec. 11, for nearly 200 members of the Class of 2020. The college hosted this special ceremony at 9:30 a.m. before the regularly scheduled December 2021 Commencement ceremony at 12:30 p.m. in the newly named Deborah F. Stanley Arena and Convocation Hall in the Marano Campus Center. Check out the photos from the Commencement Eve Reception and the two ceremonies.
“Strength of purpose and strength of character (AKA grit) have been the essential partners for you to obtain your academic degrees,” said President Deborah F. Stanley in her last address to graduates before her retirement. “Draw on the foundations that you have built while you’ve been here. Use your intellect well. Use it always in collaboration with others, with your determination and imagination. So that when your voice is needed–and it will be needed in your family, in your work, in your community–you are prepared and motivated to get involved and wrestle with the issues of our time. They are ever-present and ever-changing and will forever need you.”
The college bestowed honorary degrees from the State University of New York on Jeff Knauss ’07, an entrepreneur, community leader and philanthropist, at the 9:30 a.m. ceremony; and on Mark Baum ’81, national retail food industry advocate, volunteer and philanthropist, at the 12:30 p.m. ceremony.
Knauss co-founded Digital Hyve, a full-service digital marketing agency with offices in Syracuse and Rochester, N.Y., with 56 full-time employees. Digital Hyve was named the 52nd fastest private growing company in the U.S by Inc. Magazine in its annual Inc. 5,000 edition and was also named the 5th fastest growing marketing and advertising company in the nation. In 2021, he sold Digital Hyve to a large, independently owned ad agency, Butler Till. He is an investor in seven other businesses through his company HML Holdings. On Dec. 2, he announced the launch of a new venture, Profound (profoundmastermind.com). He is also very engaged with his community. Currently, Knauss sits on six boards, including the Loretto Foundation, Byrne Dairy, United Way of CNY, CenterState CEO, Onondaga Community College Foundation and Oswego College Foundation. Among his many philanthropic gifts, he established a scholarship at SUNY Oswego in support of the Path Forward campaign.
Baum currently serves as chief collaboration and commercial officer for FMI – The Food Industry Association. Baum is known for his intricate knowledge of almost every aspect of the food, beverage, consumer packaged goods and retail industry. He is also recognized as one of the foremost experts in the design, management and execution of strategic and commercial sales, marketing and merchandising models across consumer facing industries. He is a managing partner of MARCAT Group, LLC, an advisory firm specializing in the active outdoors marketplace. Baum serves as a director on the Oswego College Foundation, Inc. and as chair of the Development Committee. He also served as chair of the With Passion and Purpose campaign, the second capital campaign for Oswego. He and his wife, Cathy, have established two scholarship funds and established funds in support of Possibility Scholarship, a challenge grant and the Campus Center.
For the Class of 2020 graduates, the ceremony provided the celebratory close to their college experience that they always imagined.
“Being able to attend an in-person ceremony means so much to me,” said Monica Espada ’20. “I am the first in my family to graduate from college, and I was devastated that I would not be given the opportunity to traditionally celebrate this incredible moment in my life … I’m happy that SUNY Oswego has given us this opportunity.”
Carl Neff ’20 said the abrupt end to his final semester at Oswego was hard to take, and this experience goes a long way in helping to make up for that.
“Oswego hosting an in-person ceremony means the world to me and my friends,” Neff said. “Oswego will always have a special place in my heart and life. I was only there for three years, but the friends and memories I made will last a lifetime. From growing the radio station to the nights by the lake with friends, nothing will erase the time I had here.”
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