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Stony Brook University

The science, technology, engineering and math program, in which students work with Stony Brook University professors to further their education, will return to the district. File photo

Students in the Mount Sinai and Port Jefferson school districts will keep taking their talents to the next level.

Thanks to state Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) securing more funding, the joint science, technology, engineering and math program will be staying around for another year.

LaValle got $25,000 for each district to continue its partnership with professors at Stony Brook University to further the students’ learning and better prepare them for the future.

“I think the world today and the jobs today are in the STEM areas,” he said. “So we want to make sure that they have a good running start so that they can, when they apply to college, have an easy transition.”

Port Jefferson superintendent, Ken Bossert, said he’s happy the senator has been a strong supporter of the program, and said that so far the partnership with the schools has gone seamlessly.

“I think it’s a tremendous opportunity for our students,” he said. “The program has been extremely well received and well attended. There’s been a good deal of collaboration and a good deal of learning is taking place. It’s given by Stony Brook professors and they use equipment in the labs and are exposed to higher levels of learning that we can’t replicate on the high school level.”

The Mount Sinai superintendent, Gordon Brosdal, said after meeting with the senator to discuss the future of the program, he found out that his district and Bossert’s would be able to receive the same amount of funding they’ve received the last three years, to be able to maintain it.

“I would like to praise Sen. LaValle for being on the ground floor of this program, encouraging and supporting those partnerships like the Mount Sinai-Port Jeff STEM project,” he said. “We’ll keep up the partnership. It’s very positive and he is very supportive.”

LaValle said he likes the enthusiasm for the program in both school districts.

“There’s interest — that’s why we’re going to continue it,” he said. “It’s popular with the administrators and, most importantly, with the students and their parents.”

Bossert appreciates the senator’s support.

“Without the grant money that Sen. LaValle has made available for us, we would’ve had a difficult time initiating any program like this,” he said. “I think it’s something that has gone very, very well and has the opportunity for even further growth, so I’m hoping that the positive trajectory continues.”

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A scene from Friday’s Stony Brook University commencement ceremony at LaValle Stadium. Photo by Greg Catalano
Students graduating from Stony Brook University this year decorated their caps. Photo by Greg Catalano
Students graduating from Stony Brook University this year decorated their caps. Photo by Greg Catalano

Thousands of degrees were doled out on Friday as Stony Brook University said congratulations to the Seawolves’ class of 2016.

A total of 6,570 graduates made their final march into their futures at LaValle Stadium, marking the university’s 56th commencement ceremony, on May 20. University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. also conferred honorary degrees onto Eric H. Holder Jr., the 82nd attorney general of the United States, and Soledad O’Brien, an American broadcast journalist.

The university granted honorary degrees to Eric Holder and Soledad O’Brien (pictured with SBU President Samuel L. Stanley Jr.). Photo by Greg Catalano
The university granted honorary degrees to Eric Holder and Soledad O’Brien (pictured with SBU President Samuel L. Stanley Jr.). Photo by Greg Catalano

“This is a remarkable distinction for the class of 2016, to be joined by individuals who personify what Stony Brook embraces — the relentless pursuit of excellence and commitment to make a real difference,” Stanley said. “Eric Holder embodies the progress and values of our country through his strong leadership and legacy of justice and fortitude. Soledad O’Brien exemplifies the vision of our university as she is actively engaged in the critical issues of our time — initiating and exploring important national conversations.”

Graduates represented 41 states and 67 countries, and students ranged in age from 20 to 73 years old.

Students and their families packed out the stadium on Friday as the sun shone on them. Various elected officials and university administrators were also in attendance.

A scene from Friday’s Stony Brook University commencement ceremony at LaValle Stadium. Photo by Greg Catalano
A scene from Friday’s Stony Brook University commencement ceremony at LaValle Stadium. Photo by Greg Catalano

Peter Weyl as a young man in the 1940s. Photo from the Weyl family

A founder of the Marine Sciences Research Center at Stony Brook, which is now the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, Peter Weyl died on Sunday, May 22 at the age of 92.

Weyl, who retired from Stony Brook in 1995, was surrounded by friends and family.

Peter Weyl as a young man in the 1940s. Photo from Malcolm Bowman
Peter Weyl as a young man in the 1940s. Photo from the Weyl family

Weyl is survived by his wife Muriel, their son Stephen, their daughters Ruth and Lisa, five grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Known for extensive research in a range of oceanography disciplines and for writing the first oceanography textbook, Weyl’s life and academic career took several dramatic turns.

Born in Germany on May 6, 1924, Weyl and his family, who were Jewish, left their native country in 1938 amid the build up to World War II. They moved to England, where Weyl was confined to an internment camp when he was 16. Amid modest living conditions, Weyl and a cousin heard the complaints about the fish that their fellow campmates didn’t enjoy eating.

The two of them smoked the fish, making some money along the way.

This effort reflected an enterprising nature for Weyl, who his family said loved smoking herring throughout his life.

During the war, Weyl and his family moved to the United States, where Weyl attended Stuyvesant High School. He joined the army, where he served in military intelligence, putting his knowledge of German to work. He marched into Paris when it was liberated and eventually returned to Germany.

He came back to the United States in 1946 and entered college at the University of New Hampshire. It was there that he met Muriel, a woman who made a point of speaking to him twice. The first time, she was in a library, trying to choose a picture to critique for a class.

“When he came in, he looked very cute,” she recalled. She figured it was an easy connection for her, so she asked him if she should choose one particular picture.

He said he wouldn’t pick the one she pointed out and kept walking.

Three months later, the two of them were at a dance and were the only ones dressed more casually than their peers. Muriel wore her saddle shoes and a sweater she knitted, while he had “simple clothing,” as she put it.

She walked across the room and touched his shoulder.

He turned around, looked her in the eye, and said, “You and I don’t belong here. Let’s leave,” she said. That was the first of many steps along the way to their 69-year marriage.

Noticing that her husband, who she knew was brilliant, was bored with his studies at college, she encouraged him to take an exam that would allow him to study nuclear physics for a Ph.D. At that time, the country was locked in the beginning of a scientific battle with the Soviet Union.

She gave him $100 and told him to take the test and “show me you’re smart.”

A month later, Weyl was in Chicago, where his wife would eventually join him after she graduated from college. He studied with some of the biggest names in nuclear science, including Enrico Fermi, whom Weyl considered the greatest teacher in history. He also interacted with the father of the Manhattan Project, which built the world’s first atomic bomb, Robert Oppenheimer.

Along the way, Weyl saw an opportunity to do important work in other sciences that weren’t getting that kind of attention, Stephen said. He turned his attention to the ocean.

Informed by a different scientific background, Weyl took a multidisciplinary approach to basic questions ranging from how life evolved in the ocean to how the oceans were changing, said Malcolm Bowman, distinguished service professor at the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, who considered Weyl his mentor.

Bowman said Weyl focused on climate change and the ice ages 50 years before concerns about global warming heated up.

Weyl authored numerous scientific papers and wrote the first major textbook on physical oceanography, called “Oceanography: Introduction to the Marine Environment” in 1970. That book was translated into five languages, Muriel said. He also wrote a children’s book called “Men, Ants & Elephants: Size in the Animal World.”

Muriel recalled how they got calls from professors at Harvard, who appreciated how Weyl explained science.

Bowman said Weyl was the first to realize the essential contribution of New York City sewage discharges into the upper East River as the prime source of eutrophication in the Western sound. In eutrophication, nutrients cause excessive growth of algae. When the algae die, they sink to the bottom and decompose, robbing a water body of oxygen, which can lead to fish kills.

On the lookout for opportunities to fill a need, Weyl invented the main form of desalination that is used throughout the world, said Stephen Weyl. He created the original patent in which desalination uses reverse osmosis.

In a celebration of his life and their memories of a remarkable man, the Weyl family recalled how he “always had a sense of humor and saw the positive side of life,” said Lisa. That sense of humor included the liberal use of puns. He would say, “I have to say, ‘Goodbye, so I can rest a Weyl.’”

The family created the Peter K. Weyl Memorial Scholarship for students studying climate change at Stony Brook. In lieu of flowers, the family asked for contributions to the scholarship.

After signing the memorandum of understanding, SBU President Samuel L. Stanley shakes hands with Monique Rasoazananera, the minister of Higher Education, while Patricia Wright, distinguished professor of anthropology, far right, and Zina Adrianarivelo-Razaly, Madagascar’s ambassador to the United Nations, look on. Photo by Leah Dunaief

It was a celebration and a ceremony that recognized the past and set ambitious goals for the future. A quarter of a century ago, Stony Brook helped establish Ranomafana National Park in Madagascar, home to the island nation’s lemurs and a favorite destination for scientists and ecotourists.

On Monday at the Old Field Club, Stony Brook President Samuel L. Stanley, distinguished professor of Anthropology Patricia Wright, Director of the SBU Global Health Institute Peter Small, along with the Dean of the medical school Kenneth Kaushansky and several other Stony Brook deans, welcomed a delegation of distinguished guests from Madagascar.

The relationship between Stony Brook and Madagascar has been “of great benefit to both sides,” Stanley said in opening remarks. He suggested Stony Brook was seeking “new ways to engage together” because he was confident that the school “could do more.”

Indeed, after short speeches by Zina Andrianarivelo-Razaly, Madagascar’s ambassador to the United Nations and Monique Rasoazananera, minister of Higher Education in Madagascar, Stanley and his distinguished guests signed a memorandum of understanding to expand and broaden opportunities for Stony Brook in the island nation.

Rasoazananera hopes that Stony Brook will develop relationships with the five university research centers in Madagascar.

“For the students and faculty, this is a win-win,” Rasoazananera said. She spoke in French to Onja Razafindratsima, who served as a translator and was trained by Wright’s former graduate student Amy Dunham. Razafindratsima will begin the Sara and Daniel Hardy Conservation Biology Fellowship at Harvard this year.

While celebrating the relationship with Madagascar, Stanley also highlighted the ongoing affiliations in Kenya and South Korea. In Kenya, Stony Brook’s Richard, Meave and Louise Leakey conduct groundbreaking work on fossils at the Turkana Basin. Like Wright, they are involved in outreach programs in education, health, and food.

Wright was optimistic that more departments at Stony Brook would find partners in Madagascar, where she not only helped create Ranomafana, but where she also inaugurated NamanaBe Hall, a state-of-the-art research center adjacent to Ranomafana.

Stanley attended the opening ceremony for NamanaBe in 2012 and called his visit to Madagascar a “transformative” experience.

Several deans, including Kaushansky and Mary Truhlar, dean of the School of Dental Medicine at Stony Brook, plan to travel to Madagascar in July. Wright believes these visits could trigger future joint efforts.

Elise Lauterbur, a fourth year graduate student in Wright’s lab, believes this kind of memorandum could expedite the process of receiving the permits to conduct research.

Lauterbur studies three species of bamboo lemurs, two of which are critically endangered because of a loss of habitat. These lemurs eat bamboo that contains cyanide. Each day, they consume 12 times as much cyanide as the amount that would kill other mammals of their size, and yet they continue to search for their favorite meal.

Surrounded by passed appetizers of lamb chops, baked clams and scallops wrapped with bacon at the Old Field Club, Lauterbur described how she is trying to figure out what enables these lemurs to survive after ingesting such high dosages of an element that would kill many other species.

To understand how the lemurs might be removing the toxicity of cyanide, Lauterbur has attached a funnel and a cup to a stick or vine. When the lemurs urinate, she catches the specimen and analyzes it to explore their physiology and genetics. Compounding the challenge of being in the right place at the right time, Lauterbur has to navigate through dense underbrush, while the lemurs in the trees overhead can move or change direction.

For future research, this memorandum of understanding broadens the field of future research partners, Lauterbur said.

“It’s always beneficial to have local collaborators — it improves the research and it gives them access to additional resources,” Lauterbur explained in an email.

Broadening the relationship between Madagascar and Stony Brook holds promise not only for researchers who are already there, but also for many departments, students and faculty members who have yet to experience the wonder of a nation rich in biodiversity.

The diverse array of vegetation in Madagascar may offer alternative medical remedies, Wright said.

The opportunity for students and faculty “is tremendous,” Stanley added.

Stony Brook University has been awarded more than $2 million in grants. TBR News Media file photo

Stony Brook University is steps ahead of the nation on its public restroom policies.

Last week, U.S. President Barack Obama required all public schools to provide restroom facilities for all students, including those who identify as transgender. But at Stony Brook, plans are already in place to accommodate students of any identification, making it the first school in the SUNY system to offer up all-gender restrooms and changing rooms.

Timothy Ecklund, dean of students at SBU, said the university introduced a draft diversity plan in December in an attempt to attack persistent issues of inequality affecting society as a whole. In an interview, he said the university’s plan to address gender and inequality, specifically pertaining to the transgender community, included requiring all new and renovated buildings on campus to have all-gender restrooms included in construction plans and installing at least one all-gender restroom in each existing campus building.

“As long as we have transgender people at our university, our perspective is they’re a member of our community and we need to support them,” he said.

Ecklund said Stony Brook University has a total of 24 all-gender restrooms, including three recently reassigned restrooms in its Student Activities Center building, which have multi-stall facilities.

“When we changed our restrooms to all-gender in the Student Activities Center, the feedback from our students was overwhelmingly supportive and positive,” he said. “I spend a lot of time on campus and I see students in and out of the restrooms there without any hesitation. It’s not an issue, for our students, at least.”

As for the students’ perspective, sophomore Sydney Gaglio, president of the campus’ Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Alliance, said the all-gender restroom discussion was long overdue, as it has always been a primary concern of her group.

“We are of course super excited about the all-gender restrooms on campus and it is definitely a point of pride on our campus,” she said in an interview. “As students, there has been some concern mentioned in that when it comes to social media sites like Yik Yak, where things are anonymous, commentary on the all-gender restroom policy on campus can get extremely transphobic, hurtful and invalidating. So there is concern for student health because of social stigma but, all in all, the conversation from members of LGBTA centers on excitement and validation.”

The issue has become a hot topic across the North Shore and greater United States. Last month, Port Jefferson school board members approved a policy for how district officials should interact with and accommodate transgender students, including on the way those students are referenced in school records and what bathroom and locker room facilities they can use. Other school districts on the North Shore have also tried to make rules for transgender students in recent years, but faced backlash from the community.

“Gender-specific restrooms still exist and if you feel more comfortable in those spaces, then that is okay,” Gaglio said. “But things like going to the restroom are personal things; let people do their business in peace and you do yours in peace and everyone will be happy. Allow people to occupy the space in which they feel comfortable in.”

But the university’s support for all of its students does not stop at the label on a bathroom door, the dean said.

Ecklund said the university is home to a number of transgender students, and the school is taking strides to accommodate them and be sensitive to their preferences.

“We are working now as a university at providing the opportunity for our transgender students to change their names,” he said. “We’re trying to make sure the places at which their names are present — especially on a daily basis — they’re able to use the name they prefer or the name that they have taken.”

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Members of the Stony Brook women’s lacrosse team hold up four fingers to signify the four straight America East championships the team has won. Photo from SBU

Freshman Kasey Mitchell scored a free-position goal as time expired to lift the Stony Brook women’s lacrosse team to a 10-9 victory over the University at Albany and its fourth-consecutive America East championship Sunday afternoon at LaValle Stadium. With the win — the 14th-straight for Stony Brook — the Seawolves improve to 16-3, while the Great Danes drop to 11-6.

Courtney Murphy scored four goals on the afternoon to give her 95 on the year, three back of the Division I single-season record set in 1984. Junior Dorrien Van Dyke added four goals and an assist, while sophomore Kylie Ohlmiller chipped in a goal and three assists.
Murphy was named championship Most Outstanding Player and was joined by Mitchell, Van Dyke and sophomore Samantha DiSalvo on the all-championship team.

Kasey Mitchell attempts a shot at the cage for Stony Brook. Photo from SBU
Kasey Mitchell attempts a shot at the cage for Stony Brook. Photo from SBU

The Seawolves trailed 9-8 with 90 seconds remaining before junior Courtney Murphy tied the game with 1:23 to play. Senior Alyssa Fleming caused an Albany turnover with 39 seconds to go, and following a Stony Brook timeout, Mitchell won it at the buzzer.

Junior Kristin Yevoli tallied five draw controls and freshman Keri McCarthy added four. Freshman Anna Tesoriero made five saves between the pipes.

Fleming had two caused turnovers, including the crucial one in the final minute, along with a ground ball.

Stony Brook improves to 4-1 all-time in America East Championship finals.
The Seawolves allowed more than seven goals in a game for just the third time this season.
However, Stony Brook is 2-1 in those games.

Stony Brook improves to 48-5 at LaValle Stadium since 2012. Associate head coach Caitlin Defliese captured her eighth career America East title Sunday. Defliese has won the last four conference championships as part of the Stony Brook staff and won four straight as a player at Boston University from 2007-10. Murphy broke the America East record for goals in a single season with her first tally of the day, passing the mark of 91 set by Defliese’s Boston University teammate, Sarah Dalton.

The women’s team will open the NCAA Championship in Massachusetts, with a game at Boston College on May 13 at a time to be announced.

Soledad O’Brien is a recipient this year of an honorary degree at the Stony Brook University commencement ceremony. Photo from SBU

Two all stars from New York will receive honorary degrees this month at Stony Brook University’s 56th annual commencement ceremony.

Eric H. Holder Jr. and Soledad O’Brien were named this year’s honorary recipients for their contributions in their respective fields, the university said in a statement. Holder, the 82nd attorney general of the United States, will receive a doctor of law degree, while O’Brien, a Long Island native and award-winning journalist, will receive a doctor of letters.

Both recipients will address the Seawolves class of 2016 and sport academic regalia right alongside the nearly 6,000 other graduates at LaValle Stadium on May 20.

Eric Holder is a recipient this year of an honorary degree at the Stony Brook University commencement ceremony. Photo from SBU
Eric Holder is a recipient this year of an honorary degree at the Stony Brook University commencement ceremony. Photo from SBU

“This is a remarkable distinction for the class of 2016, to be joined by individuals who personify what Stony Brook embraces — the relentless pursuit of excellence and commitment to make a real difference,” said Stony Brook University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. “Eric Holder embodies the progress and values of our country through his strong leadership and legacy of justice and fortitude. Soledad O’Brien exemplifies the vision of our University as she is actively engaged in the critical issues of our time — initiating and exploring important national conversations. I am looking forward to officially welcoming Eric Holder and Soledad O’Brien as fellow Seawolves.”

Holder served as the attorney general of the United States under the leadership of U.S. President Barack Obama between 2009 and 2015. During his tenure, the president praised him for his “toughness and independence,” the university said in a statement.

Originally from the Bronx, Holder is the first African American to be the attorney general. While serving in that role, Holder announced and oversaw $1 billion in federal grants to law enforcement agencies in every state to support the hiring of police officers.

He also actively aided the war against terrorism, providing the names of the conspirators for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Holder previously served as a United States attorney for the District of Columbia for U.S. President Bill Clinton, a judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia appointed by U.S. President Ronald Reagan and the deputy attorney general under Janet Reno. Holder earned a Bachelor of Arts in American history from Columbia University and a J.D. from Columbia Law School.

O’Brien is an American broadcast journalist, executive producer and philanthropist who has become a fixture in global news on major platforms, the university said. A former co-anchor of CNN’s “American Morning,” O’Brien is now chairman of the Starfish Media Group, reporting and producing stories that have appeared on CNN, HBO and Al Jazeera America. Before joining CNN, O’Brien anchored NBC’s “Weekend Today” and contributed reports for weekend editions of the “NBC Nightly News.”

O’Brien’s recent noteworthy documentaries include “Black in America: The New Promised Land-Silicon Valley.”

O’Brien has been recognized for numerous awards and honors, including two Emmy Awards, George Foster Peabody awards, an Alfred I. DuPont Award, an NAACP President’s Award, the CINE Golden Eagle Award and “Journalist of the Year” from the National Association of Black Journalists. She is a Harvard University graduate and the daughter of Edward O’Brien, a founding professor at Stony Brook.

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Victor Ochi, right, races toward the quarterback in a game for Stony Brook last season. File photo from SBU

Victor Ochi realized his dream on Saturday evening when the senior member of the 2015 Stony Brook University football team signed an undrafted free agent contract with the Baltimore Ravens of the National Football League.

If he makes the team, Ochi would join former Seawolves teammate Will Tye as an active player in the NFL. Tye, the first SBU graduate to play on the big field, earned NFL All-Rookie honors as a tight end on the New York Giants roster in 2015 after making the squad as an undrafted free agent.

Ochi, a 2015 All-America selection and the Colonial Athletic Association co-Defensive Player of the Year, led the nation with 13 sacks through the regular season and was top in the CAA with 16.5 tackles for a loss. For the 2015 season, the Valley Stream native recorded 47 tackles in the Seawolves’ 10 games, including his 13 sacks — the second most in a single season in the program’s history. He also had four games with at least two sacks, including 3.5 against the University of New Hampshire.

During the 2015 season, Ochi became Stony Brook’s career leader in both sacks and tackles for loss. He collected 32.5 sacks and 49 tackles for a loss in four seasons.

In addition, he made a splash at the 2016 East-West Shrine game in January and turned some NFL scouts’ heads after being invited to the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis in February.

File photo: Stony Brook University's social and behavioral sciences building
Miguel Angel Condori mugshot from SCPD
Miguel Angel Condori mugshot from SCPD

Stony Brook University Police are deploying additional officers around campus this week after a graduate student was forcibly touched over the weekend, authorities said Monday.

The suspect, who police identified as 33-year-old Miguel Angel Condori, was accused of groping a graduate student on Saturday inside the third-floor bathroom of the social and behavioral sciences building on campus, university police said. Officers have been searching campus buildings for the suspect and continue to do so while increasing police presence at strategic locations.

A surveillance image and mugshot of the suspect was posted to the Stony Brook University emergency alerts website, showing the location where the incident allegedly occurred around 3:30 p.m. on Saturday. The image described the suspect as a light-skinned Hipsanic male standing at about 5 feet, 5 inches with black hair pulled back into a bun, university police said.

Any information on the suspect was to be directed to university police at 631-632-3333.

Stony Brook University students took a break from drowning in their studies to continue a storied tradition by dumping makeshift vessels made out of cardboard into a campus pond, hoping they could stay afloat.

The Roth Pond Regatta shipped off its 27th consecutive year at the university on Friday as a way for students to blow off steam before finals start next week. Each year, students cram into their homemade boats made of cardboard, duct tape and paint and race across the 200-yard body of water at the center of campus.

More than 3,000 people make their way through the regatta each year, a university spokeswoman said. This year’s special theme for the race was “under the sea and far beyond,” with some of the nearly 40 boats including the S.S. Leaky Leakey, the S.S. Free Willy, and the Titanic itself.