Tompkins Cortland Community College President Carl Haynes is delivering on Thursday his first commencement address as president of the college he has served for 48 years — and his last.
The moment will be bittersweet for him.
“It’s always a sweet time of year, a great time to celebrate but it will be my last one and it will certainly be one of those things I will miss,” said Haynes, who will retire Aug. 31 after 23 years as president.
He said his speech will highlight the stories of six TC3 graduates who he thinks illustrate what he calls the DNA of TC3. He would not elaborate beyond that.
TC3 usually chooses notable alumni to give the commencement addresses, so the choice of Haynes as the speaker is a departure. In 2015, another exception was made when then-Vice President for Global Initiatives Walter Poland, one of the college’s original employees, delivered the commencement address.
Haynes said graduation holds special meaning for him year after year.
“A couple of years ago I welcomed all those students, those who’ve gone through the two years I welcomed during orientation. … and I mentioned I’d be looking forward to giving them a degree two years later and now I get to do that,” Haynes said. “And it will be the last time I get to do that.”
In preparing his speech, Haynes said he thought of how students who graduate TC3 are shaped by their experiences at the college.
“Each of those stories are an illustration of how we really transform lives here for students,” he said. “They share very different stories and I think some combination of those stories that I share about people who have come before, the graduates who are in front of me will be able to relate to one or more of those stories.”
The symbolism of delivering a commencement address as he prepares to depart the college himself is not lost on Haynes, he said. “The graduates are moving on to another phase of their life and I’m moving on to another phase of my life, it’s just the way of the world.”
College spokesman Peter Voorhees said 624 students are graduating, but that includes many students who have already completed their degrees, so the actual number of attendees may be around 285.
“This is the graduating class of ‘17 so that includes anyone who finished coursework in the summer or fall of 2016 or spring of 2017,” Voorhees said.
Also participating in the ceremony, though not technically considered graduates until they graduate from high school, are 19 College Now participants. These are high school students who concurrently take college classes for a college degree.