Dr. Tomas D. Morales, president of City University of New York (CUNY) College of Staten Island (CSI), was named commencement speaker for the 2012 spring commencement ceremony on May 20.
Morales attended SUNY New Paltz through the Educational Opportunity program and graduated cum laude in 1975 with a history degree, later earning his masters and Ph. D in educational administration and policy studies from SUNY Albany.
Morales became the president of the College of Staten Island in 2007. He has also held senior administrative positions in the California State University systen, the State University of New York (SUNY) and the CUNY system.
Morales will receive an honorary doctorate of humane letters from the college at the ceremony, according to the SUNY New Paltz website.
The honorary doctorate is one of the highest honors the school can present to a person and, prior to bestowing the distinction, the board must approve an “in-depth nomination narrative and justification for the proposed candidate.”
“Conferring an honorary degree on Dr. Morales is especially fitting, not only because he is an alumnus with an impressive record in public higher education administration, but because of his service in various professional leadership positions at New Paltz for more than 15 years,” President Donald Christian said on newpaltz.edu. “Like New Paltz, Dr. Morales values the highest standards in recruitment, retention, instruction and pedagogy, and embraces a vision for diversity, acceptance and equal access to excellence in public education.”
Morales also serves on the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Board, the American Council on Education’s Commission on Racial and Ethnic Equity, the Governing Board and as Secretary to the Board of the Hispanic Association of Colleges & Universities and the National Information and Communication Technology Literacy Policy Council.
He has also been appointed by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to the NYC Panel on Education Policy, a member of the Board of Directors of the Staten Island Foundation, SINY Inc. and A Vision for Staten Island.
Fourth-year linguistics major Kimberly Kelly, graduating this spring, said she is not familiar with Morales or his work.
“I don’t think anyone remembers anything specific about a commencement speaker or their speech,” Kelly said. “Graduation is a time that we reflect about our personal experiences at this place that we stayed at for four years.”
Fourth-year physics major Ryan Lynch, also graduating in May, said the choice of an unknown speaker makes the ceremony less intimate.
“I don’t really see the point in having someone speak that didn’t have anything to do with our time here at SUNY New Paltz,” Lynch said. “I just don’t really see why we need a commencement address, and if we did need one, I’d rather it be from someone like the president of our school, or ideally, small speeches from the heads of the departments to make it more personal to us as a group of peers, graduating with degrees and entering into the work force.”