"Why Siena? Why do we all end up here?"
That was the question Emma McDonald posed to more than 800 of her peers, all robed in deep green, as she stood on stage during Siena College's commencement ceremony held at the Times Union Center in downtown Albany on Sunday.
McDonald, ultimately, had multiple answers to her own question as to why everyone in front of her ended up at Siena. For some students, she said, it could have been related to receiving a scholarship to the school. For others, like her, it might have been in their hearts and minds that they wanted to attend the school since the first time they visited the campus.
"I loved it here. I loved it ever since I set foot here during my junior year of high school," McDonald continued.
During her speech, McDonald also touched on how the college experience changed almost every one of the students sitting in the arena, including physical aspects of the college itself, including new turf fields and a new gym, She also discussed how, during their time at the school, the college also served as a monument to security and to things that didn't change.
"Every challenge we face, we face together," she said.
Emphasizing her point of the student population's sense of unity, graduates and commencement attendees were treated to a video that, while encapsulating major events on campus that occurred in 2019, also featured many students explaining how their experiences, from traveling abroad to completing internships to joining certain clubs, helped to shape their college careers into some of the biggest and most important moments of their lives.
The day's speakers largely focused on telling the graduates that, whatever happens going forward, they will do so together, and that they will always have a home at Siena.
"Today is a day of thanksgiving. Our faculty and our Fransican community are truly blessings at Siena College," John Murray, chairman of the college's board of trustees said during the ceremony.
Keynote speaker Kathleen Strang Gutmann of Troy, who graduated from the school in 1990 and is now the Chief Sales and Solutions Officer for UPS, received an honorary degree from the college on Sunday, which was delivered to her personally by a UPS employee who came onto the stage and had her sign for it.
In her speech, Gutmann told the graduates that, in her experience, plunging into the unknown for work had been a rewarding path, one that Siena College had prepared her for. While she moved across the globe with her family, habits she had picked up during school, including study skills, had helped her immeasurably.
"Just don't let the unknown hold you back," she said.
She also noted that her college experience had taught her that while failure might come sometimes, the only way to move forward was to try again.
"When you fail, you learn. Just do not give up," she said.
In her speech, McDonald also told her peers that they should not, under any circumstances, be afraid of moving towards inevitable greatness.
"It won't be easy. It never has been. I only know that whatever paths we take, it won't be the easy one. All of us will move mountains together," McDonald said.