More than 7,600 Stony Brook University students filed into Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium to take part in the 2022 Degree Commencement Celebration ceremony Friday, May 20.
The students were part of one of the largest graduating classes in the university’s 65-year history. They were awarded a combined 7,610 degrees and certificate completions. The Class of 2022 included students from 68 countries and 45 states, and the students ranged from 19 to 71. In addition to the in-person event, it was live streamed.
During the ceremony, film director Todd Haynes received an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree. Over the past four decades, he has taken part in several films and television projects as a film director, screenwriter and producer. He has won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival for his work on “Poison,” an American science fiction drama horror film that he also wrote. Haynes is a longtime friend of Christine Vachon, founder of Stony Brook’s MFA in Film, and has collaborated often with her and guest lectured to students in the program.
Haynes had advice for the graduates.
“I just wanted to acknowledge the remarkable teachers in my life, who I feel gave to me the tools to engage with a history and a culture that contained all the contradictions and many of the challenges that we confront today, that you guys confront today,” he said. “They helped me feel inspired to engage with those challenges, not to retreat or even impose my own solutions, but to dig deeper, to raise questions and respond to them in my own way, which is what I have the unique privilege of doing as a filmmaker. I wish for every student here today those kinds of openness, those kinds of tools as you guys all step out into this wild world. You deserve to feel as optimistic and inspired as I did at your age and know that you embody all our very best hopes and finest dreams.”
Among the speakers at the event were SBU President Maurie McInnis, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and student speaker for the Class of 2022 Ahmed Syed, a biology major. During his speech, Syed told his fellow SBU students about his parents who moved to the U.S. from India when they were in their 30s. Syed’s three brothers also graduated from SBU, and his older sibling, who is now a doctor in Florida, was the student speaker when he graduated from the university.
“Stony Brook wasn’t just a college our family went to, it’s been our legacy,” Syed said. “Understand that my parents came here with nothing and now all four of their sons are college graduates. Not just four college graduates, but four Seawolves. This is nothing more than a testament to what Stony Brook stands for.”
After acknowledging exceptional students in the graduating class, McInnis had praise for all the members who she said inspired her and others.
“As you join Stony Brook’s more than 200,000 alumni across the globe, I hope you’ll stay connected to this unique and passionate community,” the university president said. “I hope you’ll continue to see Stony Brook as a second home, one that celebrates all you accomplish, strengthens your critical perspectives and supports your most ambitious endeavors.”
She quoted Jackson Pollock who once said, “Each age finds its own technique.”
“With the Class of 2022, it is very clear to me that your technique is to maintain a truly creative and collaborative spirit that will be your path forward,” McInnis said. “I know you will move together as individuals with a sense of discovery, ambition, innovation and artistry. Stony Brook University is incredibly proud of all you have achieved here — and all you will go on to create.”