Broadway Producer Urges Ithaca College Graduates to Take Risks and Spread Kindness

By Jenny Barnett, May 21, 2023
More than 1,160 degree recipients celebrated at Ithaca College Commencement ceremony.

Standing on the stage in Glazer Arena, Tony Awardwinning Broadway producer and theatre alum Larry Hirschhorn ’80 confessed to being totally speechless when asked to make Ithaca College’s 128th commencement address celebrating the more than 1,160 members of the Class of 2023.

But he ultimately determined his best approach was “to just be myself,” he said to the audience of close to 7,500 in the packed arena on Sunday, May 21. “When I began wrestling with what I could possibly speak to you about, I remembered the first rule of writing—Write what you know.

“And the thing I know most about in this world, is theatre,” Hirschhorn continued. “I’ve always loved it and the impact it can have on people, as well as its power to hold a mirror up to our society.”

Hirschhorn shared his belief that we use many aspects of theatre education in our daily lives — collaboration, listening and observation skills; the ability to “be in the moment”; risk-taking, flexibility, improvisation; and, above all, kindness.

“All things which, I hope, can help steer your paths,” he said to the graduates.

“I truly can’t wait to see that world we all dream about, which I know will become a dazzling reality in the capable—and brilliant—hands of the Ithaca College Class of 2023.”

Commencement Speaker Larry Hirschhorn ’80

Hirschhorn closed his address with a lyric from his Broadway hit production Hadestown: “Here’s to the world we dream about, and the one we live in now.”

Anchal Indu Dhir

Voice performance major Anchal Indu Dhir '23 opened the proceedings with a rousing rendition of the national anthem. (Photo by Dave Burbank '82)

“And I truly can’t wait to see that world we all dream about, which I know will become a dazzling reality in the capable—and brilliant—hands of the Ithaca College Class of 2023. Just remember to take those risks, spread kindness, and always enjoy the ride!”

An outstanding performance of the national anthem by graduating senior Anchal Indu Dhir helped kick off the program. The voice performance major utilized the skills she honed from participating this past December in a prestigious three-day opera master class at Carnegie Hall.

The theme of kindness permeated throughout the day. The quote inscribed on the medallion presented to all graduates prior to the ceremony came from civil rights activist Coretta Scott King: "The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.” 

“To me, this quote reminds us of our shared responsibility, as citizens of the world, to demonstrate compassion, to demonstrate grace, to show love, even when we don’t feel like it, and more importantly, to view the world through multiple perspectives,” said President La Jerne Terry Cornish.

Grad Medallion

The 2023 Commencement medallion was inscribed with a quote from Coretta Scott King. (Photo by Charles McKenzie)

In her remarks, Cornish urged the students to put those traits into action as they embark on the next chapters of their lives. “You possess the knowledge, dispositions, and skills necessary to hit the ground running in your chosen field or profession,” she said. “You are the personification of theory, practice, and performance.”

Cornish introduced honorary Doctor of Letters degree recipient Loki Mulholland ’22, an Emmy Award–winning filmmaker and civil rights activist and educator. Mulholland visited IC last fall to speak to students about how they can have an impact on issues of injustice.

Originally slated to graduate as a member of the Class of ’94, Mulholland missed his final year due to getting stuck in Russia after studying and working abroad but received his undergraduate degree from the Roy H. Park School of Communications last December.

Cornish praised Mulholland “for his stories, for his insights and for his compassion.”

Speaking for the Class of 2023, Francesca Infante-Meehan urged her fellow graduates to be proud of their achievements and to take time to enjoy the day to its fullest. She then recalled the many ways her time at Ithaca College had impacted her.

“If it was not for Ithaca College, I would not have been able to discover who I am. Just like many of you, I was able to find my best friends here, my passions here, and most importantly — I found my future here.”

Class of 2023 speaker Francesca Infante-Meehan

“I have met some of the most interesting and talented people here,” she said. “How could you not meet great people when there are just so many great things happening around you?

“I owe a lot to this school,” she added. “If it was not for Ithaca College, I would not have been able to discover who I am. Just like many of you, I was able to find my best friends here, my passions here, and most importantly — I found my future here.”

Chair of the board of trustees David Lissy ’87 spoke to the students as well, recalling his own graduation 36 years ago.

“I vividly remember pulling out of Ithaca with all of my worldly possessions in the trunk of my car, filled with excitement and—of course—some anxiety about what comes next,” he said. “I encourage you all to lean in and soak in the moment. Have confidence that your time here at IC has prepared you for the journey that lies ahead in whatever your next step may be and long beyond.”

Linda Petrosino

Retiring dean of the School of Health Sciences and Human Performance Linda Petrosino ’77, MS ’78 was awarded the 2023 Presidential Medal. (Photo by Dave Burbank '82)

Following the speeches, Cornish presented retiring dean of the School of Health Sciences and Human Performance Linda Petrosino ’77, MS ’78 with the 2023 Presidential Medal.

Petrosino — whose roots at the college run deep — was honored for her contributions to the Ithaca College community and beyond. “We are better because you are here,” said Cornish.

The students were then called up one by one to receive their diplomas. After walking the stage — with some graduates giving Cornish a celebratory fist bump — getting their photos taken, and returning to their seats, they were invited by Cornish to “take a deep breath, look around, and fix your thoughts and emotions in this moment so you will be able to recall them.

“You made it!” she emphasized, before instructing the students to flip the tassels on their graduation caps from the right side to the left to highlight the symbolic transition from students to graduates. A celebratory blast of confetti filled the air, along with a few tossed mortarboards.

Recordings of 2023 Commencement Ceremonies

Photographs from the 128th Ithaca College Commencement, along with video replays of the ceremonies, will be available on the Commencement website soon.

With the formal ceremony concluded, students met up with proud friends and family and celebrated their accomplishment.

Rocco DiMaiolo ’23, who hopes to attend law school in the future, was soaking up the moment with his family.

“It is hard to put into words,” DiMaiolo said, of his feelings on graduating. “We had a lot of hard time, ups and downs, but at the end of the day, it was all worth it. We really pulled through and — here we are!”

The Class of 2023 Gives Thanks

Prior to the start of the 2023 Commencement ceremony, the video board in Glazer Arena flashed with inspirational messages and words of thanks submitted by the graduates. Below is a selection of quotes:

It's one of life's greatest honors to have experiences and journeys that you long for long after they've ended — Laura Caridad Avila

Love the people I've met at this beautiful place — Amberly Karen Christiansen

Despite being a writing major, to the people who got me here today, there are no words that can describe just how much I love you. — Rynn M. Deegan

Thanks, Mom & Dad! First Gen grad. Stay Rad! — Cayla Krista Jones

It took a village. — Ted Mburu

At first, I never considered going to college. During my first year at IC, I never thought I could even graduate. Now, I can't imagine leaving. — Gavin James Pritchard

Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end. Class of 2023, we're okay. — Sebastian Alberto Santiago

Keep your dreams alive. To achieve anything requires belief in yourself, hard work, determination, and dedication. Remember, all things are possible. — Kalli Ruth Schwartz

I do not, and will not fear tomorrow, because I feel as though today has been enough. — Theresa Ann Volk