By Maxime Devillaz
On a rainy Friday morning, May 6, LIU faculty, family, and friends crammed under the white commencement tent on the Great Lawn in Brookville to see off the graduates from LIU Post and its sister campuses, LIU Brentwood and LIU Riverhead. Some visitors, to avoid the mud, remained indoors, where three campus buildings televised the spectacle.
In total, 1,115 bachelor’s, 129 combined bachelor’s/master’s, 1,059 master’s and 64 doctoral degrees students graduated, according to the program. LIU’s marketing department stated that graduates came from 29 U.S. states and 26 nations around the world.
The 58th annual commencement ceremony turned out to be slightly different than in past years. For one, spoiled with summer heat at the past two years’ ceremonies, the sun decided not to shed light on the graduates this time. This year, all graduates also walked together instead of breaking up between undergraduate and graduate students, as was the case before.
What remained alike, however, was Senator Chuck Schumer’s address; the infamous graduation speech heard at various universities within the New York area, a teenage love story that changed his life. After graduating from Harvard University, Schumer told the graduates, he was offered a full-ride, one-year scholarship to travel the world, but he ultimately turned it down to be with his then-girlfriend, his first love, who subsequently dumped him shortly thereafter.
“There I was: no scholarship, no trip around the world, no girl. I said to myself, ‘What a loser you are,’” Schumer said. By point of his speech, Schumer believed his experience was relatable. He attempted to show that anyone can “get back up, dust [themselves] off, and move forward.”
Daniel Kirsanov, valedictorian of the class of 2016, encouraged fellow students not to come shy of their dreams—and to drink a lot of coffee in the process. Humble with the honor, he paid tribute to his fiancée, also a 2016 LIU Post graduate, with whom he has juggled the five years of college.
Mid-speech, Kirsanov said, “She actually has a copy of the speech, in case I would mess up,” to which the audience “awe’d,” as if they had seen a giggling baby. “I haven’t messed up yet, have I?” his face going from calm to nervous in a wink, the audience responding with a wave of laughter.
Kirsanov, who graduated from LIU’s five-year accelerated B.S. Accounting/MBA program, hopes to remain at Ernst & Young where he currently works and progress up the ladder to gain more experience in the area of tax accounting.
David Neeleman, entrepreneur and founder of America’s fifth largest airline, JetBlue, who was presented with an honorary degree, gave the keynote address. Approaching the podium, Neeleman quickly confessed, “I never experienced graduation myself, because I never graduated college.”
The commencement speaker, who has successfully started four independent airline businesses, addressed the importance of altruism. One of the main things he asked prospective employees during job interviews, Neeleman explained, was: How do you treat others who won’t be able to give you anything back? “Most people,” he said, “have a difficult time coming up with an answer to that question.”
Tina Skjonhals, masters in health administration
“I have kept my full-time job as a nurse at a hospital in Norway while studying at LIU Post,” Skjonhals said. Although happy with her position, participating in the Model-United Nations club on campus has widened her perspectives. “My master’s thesis was about the global refugee crisis and healthcare and integration in Norway, and I am hoping to get a job with the Norwegian Directorate of Integration or the Norwegian Directorate of Health,” she said. “And, with time, get a PhD in global health.”
Mijail Quintin, bachelors of Arts in economics
“College has been for the most part all about trust,” Ouintin said. “This journey wasn’t just about me getting to this point in my life so that I may receive praise for my hard work. No, to me, graduating from LIU Post represents an entire body of individuals and communities that have shaped me into who I am today.”
Quintin explained that when putting trust in others, one learns to know more about oneself. “I represent every single friend and family who has ever assisted me in just about everything these last few years,” he said. “From understanding an international economic theory, to what color tie to wear to my first real interview.”
The best part of commencement, for Quintin, was seeing these very individuals by his side. “Commencement was a blur, but walking across that stage will replay in my mind for many years to come.”