Posted on Jun 19, 2007

ABC News anchor Charles Gibson got an honorary degree from Union College on Sunday, and delivered more than the commencement address. Gibson also contributed $75,000 to help create an annual scholarship fund for a student in financial need.

The scholarship will be named after Gibson’s father, Burdett, who grew up in Schenectady and graduated from Union in 1923.

Fathers were a running theme in the ceremony, which was held on Father’s Day. Student speaker Karyn Amira related how her father would tell her every day of her childhood, as she left for school, “Have fun and learn a lot.” When she told him she was going to use the phrase in her speech, Amira said, he told her he’d like to add the words, “and while you’re at it, do something positive for society and for others. Because that’s what’s really important.”

Amira, an anti-land mines activist, hopes to work with a nongovernmental agency or nonprofit organization before going on to study international relations.

Adeyemi Adenrele, another new graduate, has similar career goals, after majoring in political science and minoring in French. He plans to serve in the Peace Corps, likely in a French-speaking African country, then do postgraduate work at the University at Albany, because he likes this area. But like many Union students, Adenrele, of Ann Arbor, Mich., said he is not that familiar with Schenectady — apart from a few bars near campus.

College President Stephen Ainlay, speaking at his first commencement, told the new graduates that “Now it is your turn to realize your dreams . . . now it is your turn to take responsibility for the welfare of the communities in which you will live.”

Salutatorian Leigh Ann Holterman, who used to live in the Pine Hills neighborhood of Albany and is a graduate of Albany High School, studied psychology and was active on Union’s campus, including starting a student-run babysitting service for college faculty and staff. She is going to work as a research assistant for Macro International in Burlington, Vt.

The Schenectady Pipe Band played before and after the ceremony, and during it two student vocal groups performed a cappella. The national anthem was sung by the all-female Garnet Minstrelles, most wearing the caps and gowns of the graduating class. Later, near the end, the Dutch Pipers, a larger contingent of about a dozen male singers, performed the “Ode to Old Union,” which starts:

“Let the Grecian dream of his sacred stream,
And sing of the brave adorning,
That Phoebus weaves from his laurel leaves
At the golden gate of morning.”

The assembled graduates and the rest of the audience did not accept the invitation to join in, although the words were in their programs.

Two students, Kevin Patrick Dwyer and Adam H. Nebenzahl, wore dress military uniforms to accept their diplomas. Dwyer has been commissioned in the Marines, and Nebenzahl in the Navy.

The invocation and benediction to “Creator God” were delivered by Mark Leonard, a deacon at St. Madeleine Sophie Roman Catholic Church in Guilderland. “Protect us from evils so we may bring goodness to others,” he prayed.