CANTON — As they gathered in caps and gowns before Saturday's commencement ceremony, the line of students and faculty snaking through the sunny campus plaza, SUNY Canton's class of 2013 members recalled their time at college.
Some were sorry to see it go, others were just glad to see the payoff for their work.
“I've been reflecting back on the last four years of my life. I'm so glad it's over,” said Zachary J. Smith.
Mr. Smith stood near the front of the line. He was to be honored with the Chancellor's Award for Student Excellence.
The commencement, held at 10:30 a.m. in the Roos House, honored the 964 students who graduated from SUNY Canton this year. This includes students from baccalaureate, associate and certificate programs.
Mr. Smith received his bachelor's degree in industrial technology management, with two associate degrees, in construction management and business administration.
He plans to move to Indianapolis and look for work in the short term. Later he wants to follow his true passion: missionary work. Last semester he spent four months in South Sudan on a service mission, working on construction.
“That was a big learning experience,” he said.
Megan M. Mydosh, of Warwick, walked the stage Saturday, but she is not leaving Canton for long. She received her associate degree in business administration, and will return to the college this fall to start studying for her bachelor's in management.
“I've been part of a lot of different things,” she said of her two years on campus so far.
Ms. Mydosh was recruited by the school's track team, and also played lacrosse. She was awarded the Outstanding Graduate Award at the associate level.
“I'm really happy that I can be involved in everything,” she said.
Abigail E. Shoen, of Waddington, said SUNY Canton not only gave her an education, it also helped her find the love of her life.
“Freshman year here, I found my husband,” she said.
Ms. Shoen and fellow student Jeremiah Hardin were married last year, and the pair plan to move to South Carolina soon.
“I love this campus,” Ms. Shoen said. “It's small. You get close to your faculty and your professors.”
The students chose Assistant Professor Christa K. Kelson for the Northstar Award, given by graduates annually to an outstanding faculty or staff member. Ms. Kelson teaches accounting.
The ceremony marked an ending, not just for the students. It was Carli S. Schiffner's last, and first, commencement as interim college president.
Ms. Schiffner will move to her home state of Washington to serve as vice president of instruction at Wenatchee Valley College, Wenatchee.
She will be replaced by Acting President Joseph C. Hoffman.
Before her departure, Ms. Schiffner had a few words of advice for students.
“This is an exciting opportunity for all of you,” she said. “Go for it. Don't be idle.”
She summarized with three brief instructions.
“Be bold. Have a plan B. And be a good friend,” she said.