Schenectady County

Author asks grads to set tough goals (with photo gallery)

The creator of the novel that spawned the hit musical “Wicked” told University at Albany graduates S

The creator of the novel that spawned the hit musical “Wicked” told University at Albany graduates Sunday to set six impossible goals for themselves and work to reach them.

Gregory Maguire, a graduate of the class of 1976, said he never imagined that he could become a writer. The author of the award-winning “Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West,” Maguire recalled falling in love with reading through many trips to the Albany Public Library.

“Thirty-five years later, it’s 35 books later,” he said at UAlbany’s 167th commencement ceremony held during a rainy Sunday morning on the Grand Entry Plaza. The university awarded 2,208 undergraduate and 874 graduate degrees.

Maguire also never thought that as a gay man he would be able to marry one day, but next month he and his husband, who live in Massachusetts with their three adopted children, will celebrate their seventh anniversary.

The country has also progressed in race relations, Maguire said. “My brown-skinned children [are] growing up in a country governed by a brown-skinned president,” he said.

His final impossible goal was reaching Broadway with “Wicked,” which is now in its seventh year. “Today is the start of your stories,” he said.

In his remarks, UAlbany President George M. Philip praised the graduates for their commitment to the community. President Barack Obama recently included the University at Albany in his Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll. An estimated 6,800 students performed community service in the Capital Region, according to Philip.

“Great work, Great Danes,” he said.

He also told the graduates to thank their parents for helping them get to this point in their lives.

“Many of them provided you the guidance and encouragement and the tuition that made it possible,” he said.

About 53 percent of the graduating class were women. Students from 52 different countries received degrees in 50 different majors including psychology, business, communication, accounting, English, sociology, political science, history and biology.

Jeff Manor of Albany, who received a political science degree, said he looked forward to either getting a master’s degree or enrolling in law school. Since the job market for lawyers is not that great, he wanted to keep his options open. The most difficult part of school was coming back as a returning adult student.

“I took 10 years off to work and be in the military,” he said.

Despite the steady rain, graduates and their families remained upbeat about the day.

Howard Sackstein of Long Island looked on proudly from under an umbrella as his son Josh graduated with a degree in communications. Josh hopes to work in public relations.

“The sun is shining right over my head right now,” he said.

Also on Sunday, 832 students received bachelor’s degrees from Siena College’s schools of business, science and liberal arts. A total of 31 students graduated from the college’s accounting master’s degree program, which is in its second year.

The college also awarded certificates of attendance to three Haitian students — Canes Camil, Pierre-Louis Joizil and Esperandieu Cenat. Siena gave scholarships to these three students so they could attend after their university was destroyed in the earthquake.

Each will work to improve life in their homeland, according to a press release from the college. Camil wants to develop solar energy technology that will provide people with electricity. Joizil plans to grow a school he started last October. Cenat plans to open an orphanage.

Siena awarded three honorary degrees to Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; Diane Ravitch, New York University research professor of education; and Ralph Perez, executive director of Create Inc., a nonprofit service organization that works with the poor and marginalized in Harlem.

Maria College also hosted its commencement ceremony at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center.

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