Commencement Ceremony to Award Two New Paltz Notables

It won’t be just the seniors in caps and gowns walking the stage in May to receive an award for their continuous hard-work and dedication. 

During the Saturday Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony on May 18, in addition to celebrating the graduates of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, the college will be presenting the highest form of recognition offered by SUNY: an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters degree.  

At Sunday’s ceremony on May 19—before the School of Business, School of Education, School of Fine & Performing Arts and School of Science & Engineering graduates throw their caps in the air—the college will award the highest award that can be bestowed on an individual by SUNY New Paltz, a rare honor, the President’s medal.

Who are they, you ask? 

Jane Delgado, one of SUNY New Paltz’s most accomplished alumni, will receive the honorary doctorate of humane letters degree and also serve as Saturday’s commencement speaker. 

The honorary doctorate degree honors “exceptional scholarship, service and professional achievements that stand as an example for the many and diverse students attending SUNY institutions,” said Director of Community and Government Relations Richard Winters. 

Delgado is a health care advocate, researcher, author and clinical psychologist. She currently serves as president and chief executive officer of the National Alliance for Hispanic Health, a non-profit, science-based and community driven organization that provides crucial services to more than 15 million Hispanics throughout the U.S. every year. 

She established the Lucy Delgado Scholarship Endowment in honor of her mother. Over the years, Delgado has dedicated herself to expanding opportunities for Hispanic students at her alma mater, making contributions that have proven incredibly valuable for the college’s growing population of Latinx students. 

“I want to support the graduates and their families during this next transition by offering some ideas for reframing the future… a discussion on nature or nurture,” Delgado said in regards to Saturday’s commencement ceremony. 

Nina Smiley and, posthumously, her husband Albert K. “Bert” Smiley will be awarded the President’s medal to honor the Smiley family’s special role in the New Paltz community. Nina will be the Sunday commencement speaker. 

Currently, Nina serves as director of mindfulness programming at the iconic Hudson Valley resort. The Mohonk Mountain House has been under the management of the Smiley family, dating back to 1869. 

“Bert and Nina took over as president and director of marketing, respectively, in 1990, and helped usher the property into a new era, adding modern spaces and amenities while preserving its inherent natural beauty and architectural charm,” Winters said. 

The Smiley family nurtures ties with SUNY New Paltz by frequently inviting students and faculty to the Mohonk property to conduct ecological fieldwork, artistic study and performance and historical research. 

Smiley Art Building is showcasing an exhibit titled “Mohonk Mountain House at 150” through July 14. 

Established in late 2018, the Smiley Family Endowed Scholarship Fund supports SUNY New Paltz students who are employees or family of employees at Mohonk Mountain House.