Commencement Speaker Encourages Ithaca College Students to Show Up for Others and Themselves

By Jenny Barnett, May 22, 2022

Ithaca College celebrates graduates at 2022 Commencement ceremonies.

Over 1,300 students gathered with proud families and friends on Sunday, May 22, to celebrate Ithaca College’s 127th commencement. Twin ceremonies were held—at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.—at Glazer Arena in the Athletics and Events Center on campus. 

Sheila Katz

Sheila Katz, National Council of Jewish Women CEO and a 2005 IC graduate.  (Photo Credit: Chris Kitchen)

The importance of showing up for others—as well as taking care of ourselves—was a key message from Commencement speaker Sheila Katz, National Council of Jewish Women CEO and a 2005 IC graduate.  

She encouraged students to be honest about how they feel, focus on valuing themselves rather than comparing themselves to others, and push back against hard-to-meet expectations and pressures. 

“Look in the mirror and accept all of what you see,” Katz said. “If I hadn't let the impossible standards that are set on us rule my life at your age, I could've done so many more important things. I wish I could go back in time and tell myself not to spend all my emotional energy on pleasing others. So here I am saying it to you: Please, please, don't buy into the lies we have been taught. Unlearn that you are unworthy. Show up for yourself with kindness and compassion. Prioritize your well-being.” 

Katz spoke of the importance of listening, supporting and allyship, and called on the class of 2022 to notice their power and privilege, and show up for those in need.  

“Every great change maker in history started by showing up just once,” she said. “We never know what the tipping point for change will be or who will set it in motion. But it starts with showing up and when enough of us do, one of us is bound to create the ripples that can change the course of history. It could be one of you. 

“We cannot just live in one another’s vicinity; we must live in one another’s community,” Katz concluded. “May we all have the courage to take those steps to show up for ourselves, for the people in our communities, and for the world, one small action at a time. I’m excited to see the world you help shape.” 

President Cornish

President La Jerne Terry Cornish addressing 2022 graduates. (Photo Credit: Chris Kitchen)

In her remarks, IC president La Jerne Terry Cornish told the audience how elated she was that the community was able to gather in-person for the weekend’s celebrations. 

“It is my honor to congratulate our soon-to-be alumni on this outstanding accomplishment,” she said. “It takes exceptional dedication, careful balance, and rigorous study to obtain excellence in an academic field, and I commend you for the commitment you've demonstrated—and you are just getting started.” 

Cornish, too, spoke of community and togetherness. Drawing on words from Martin Luther King Jr., she referenced our shared obligation to fight for justice for all, and to view the world from multiple perspectives.  

“As each of you begins your next chapter, it’s my sincere hope that you continue to think critically, creatively and analytically,” Cornish said. “That you practice compassion. That you let grace be your guide. And that you remain optimistic about humanity’s potential for progress.”  

In closing, she said, “I ask that you let your years of dedication here activate a life of perseverance, of possibility, and of purpose.” 

Dave and Bonnie Prunty

David Prunty, executive director of auxiliary services, and Bonnie Prunty, dean of students, receive the Ithaca College Presidential Medal. (Photo Credit: Chris Kitchen)

After wishing the class “all good things as you embark on the next step of your journey,” Cornish recognized the recipients of honorary Doctor of Letters degrees— “Democracy Now!” co-founder and co-host Amy Goodman and award-winning Hollywood visual effects creator Jeff White, a 1998 graduate of the college. 

Cornish later presented the Ithaca College Presidential Medal to long-serving campus leaders Bonnie Prunty, dean of students, and David Prunty, executive director of auxiliary services. She noted that each has given more than three decades of consistent, compassionate service to IC, during which “they have helped to create the Ithaca College family that we all know and love.” 

Leticia Guibunda

Student speaker Leticia Guibunda speaks to her fellow 2022 classmates. (Photo Credit: Chris Kitchen)

In her turn at the podium, student speaker Leticia Guibunda spoke of her awe at her classmates’ resilience in navigating the pandemic that hit during their sophomore year.  

“That unprecedented change caused us to go our separate ways and re-establish our priorities,” Guibunda said. “It also forced us to reimagine what community meant to us when we were apart. We had to be college students, deal with our family dynamics in ways like never before, sort through feelings of isolation, and manage a new type of stress while trying to complete coursework under time-zone differences or without adequate resources.” 

Guibunda praised her fellow students’ dedication, commitment, and strength, their creativity, innovation, and compassion.  

“Despite all the hard and difficult times, I’ve still seen you be brilliant,” she said. “I hope that you all hold on to the memories and the community that you’ve made at Ithaca College during these past years, because those are the parts of IC that you can hold on to forever.” 

Mortarboard Mentions

IC’s most newly minted alumni echoed many of the sentiments of the day’s speakers. Mortarboard art messages included:  

  • “And now I’m flying away.”  
  • “On to the next chapter.”  
  • “Oh, the places you’ll go!”  
  • “Fiercely independent, beautiful, brilliant, and brave.”  
  • “I don’t know where I’m going, but I promise it won’t be boring.”  
  • “Here’s to the ones who dream.”

Graduates shared their own thoughts on reaching this milestone.  

Sisters Gabrielle and Isabella Topping were thrilled to be graduating together in front of a big crowd of supporters—their parents (mom is an IC alum) and seven younger cousins.  

“We're the first cousins of our family to graduate,” they said.  

“It’s exciting and scary. It's a little sad because we lost a year, but we are happy to be here together,” said Morgan Ziegler, who was lining up to process with her roommates and friends. 

“It’s been a long journey. And the pandemic definitely made it a bit strange,” said Chris Bavaro of finishing his four years at IC. “But we accomplished a lot and I’m glad to start the next chapter.” 

Zachary Naughright was also looking forward to the future.  

“This college has helped me develop, but also made me learn what I need to do and what not to do in life,” he said. “But I think that from here on out, it’s going to be a journey of finding myself again in the real world, as an adult, past graduation.”  

“I am incredibly excited to graduate,” said Max Petrov. “I grew up in Ithaca, and when considering colleges, I always had IC as my top choice. My alma mater will always be in my heart, and I’ll be back.” 

Recordings of 2022 Commencement Ceremonies

Photographs from the 127th Ithaca College Commencement, along with video replays of the ceremonies, will be available the week of May 23.