In 2020, students across the country graduated from high school during the COVID-19 pandemic in virtual or socially distanced celebrations. Four years later, Binghamton University’s class of 2024 was celebrated in nine lively ceremonies — a doctoral hooding, three for the Harpur College of Arts and Science and one for every other school — stretching from Thursday through Saturday.

Each ceremony included remarks from University President Harvey Stenger, Provost Donald Hall, each school’s dean, Alumni Association President Cara Treidel ‘16 and selected student speakers. A University spokesperson said over 22,000 guests were expected to visit campus to celebrate the 4,400 graduates.

Though the exact schedule varied by commencement, similar sentiments were shared. Stenger started many of his speeches screaming the name of the school, and all speakers expressed their congratulations, pride and hope for the newly minted alumni.

“The degree that you receive today is a symbol to the world,” Stenger said at the 8:30 a.m. Harpur College ceremony. “It symbolizes that you have achieved a level of expertise and experience that will allow you to advance in your chosen discipline. During your time here, you delved into theory and practice and started to discover your passion. That process required a great deal of hard work and investing in your subject matter. I think you spent your time in other ways very importantly — joining clubs, playing a sport, meeting new people and making lifelong friends.”

A processional of notable faculty and administrators preceded each graduating class into the Events Center. Each ceremony featured an honorary guest, including a keynote speaker at the School of Management ceremony, an alumni award at the second Harpur College ceremony and four honorary degrees presented across the weekend.

Lee Ranaldo ‘78, one of the honorary degree recipients, was awarded a doctorate of music. He spoke about his connection to music and the art departments on campus before passing on the life lessons he took away from his experiences.

“Be ready to work everyday,” Ranaldo said. “Be ready to do your best and really give your all to what you’re working on. It was said ‘follow your passion.’ I hope for all of you, you have had really broad experiences … I can’t say enough about the value of [a liberal arts education].”

After the speeches and honorary recognitions, graduating students crossed the stage grouped by major, shaking Stenger’s hand and receiving their diplomas. Following the presentation of the graduates were the selected student speakers. Basel Sultan MS ‘24, who spoke at the Thomas J. Watson College of Engineering and Applied Science ceremony, described arriving in Binghamton with two weeks’ notice to become a research assistant and starting “a new chapter of his life.”

“Do not lose sight of yourself amid life’s struggles,” Sultan said. “Embrace challenges, find joy in them and seize every opportunity that comes your way no matter how daunting it may seem.”
Many speakers, including Hall, shared how the pandemic altered their lives and shaped their college experience. Sarah Marshall ‘21, MS ‘24, who spoke at the College of Community and Public Affairs ceremony, shared how focusing on the past impacted her.

“Remembering the past is important,” she said. “Staying there is when it starts to do more harm than good. We have to let the universe, the world and ourselves tell us where we’re really meant to go.”

When the student speakers finished addressing the crowd, attendees stood to listen and sing along to the alma mater. Stenger and the school’s dean conferred the degrees, and students flipped their tassels from right to left, with many throwing their caps in the air. The ceremonies ended, and the graduates hurried outside to meet their families and take photos with loved ones.

“It’s an honor to congratulate the class of 2024,” Stenger wrote in a message to the graduates and their guests. “May your next adventure be as fruitful as your time at [BU]. I hope you’ve made lifelong friends and allies here, and I encourage you to stay in touch and remain involved as a member of the Binghamton family for years to come.”

To view the commencement ceremonies, visit BU’s YouTube channel to watch the saved livestreams.