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ESF Confers Degrees upon December Graduates

Three alumni honored during ceremony
12/11/2015

The accomplishments of ESF's newest graduates were celebrated during commencement ceremonies Friday at Hendricks Chapel.

The College conferred 171 degrees, including 42 master's degrees and eight Doctor of Philosophy degrees, during the ceremony that also honored three alumni with Graduate of Distinction awards, and included the inaugural President's Award.

"Each of you possesses the knowledge, skills, perspectives and passions to help you make contributions no one else can," ESF President Quentin Wheeler told the graduates.

"Your diploma is not a laurel to sit on, but a license to action. Make your dreams a reality," Wheeler said.

Wheeler presented the first President's Medal to Rick Fedrizzi, CEO of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and CEO of the Green Building Certification Institute. Awarded at the discretion of the ESF president, the President's Medal recognizes individuals who have made extraordinary contributions to science, humanity and the natural world.

Fedrizzi was one of the co-founders of the USGBC in 1993. Since then he has tripled USGBC's membership and cemented its role as a leadership voice in the global sustainability movement.

Upon accepting his award Fedrizzi said, "The challenges facing the world are profound, but the opportunities are breathtaking." He encouraged the graduates to apply the lessons they learned at ESF to build the sustainable environment "that future children and generations deserve."

The Lifetime Achievement Award was bestowed upon Diana K. Bendz '68, the Notable Achievement Award was given to I. Holly Rosenthal '82, and the Incipiens Quercu (beginning oak) Award was given to Dr. Jeremy Testa '03.

Bendz is the first woman to graduate ESF's polymer chemistry program and devoted her career to addressing critical environmental and business issues at IBM and fostering an interest in science among girls and young women.

Upon her retirement, Bendz founded and became CEO of Girls Balance the Equation, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting interest in STEM among girls and young women. She serves her alma mater as immediate past president of the ESF College Foundation.

"It seems to be a maxim that you need to take risks to be successful," said Bendz, but she added that those risks often present themselves as opportunities, adventures and challenges at the time.

"The reward," Bendz said, "justifies the risk."

Rosenthal, who studied environmental studies/landscape architecture, has worked to improve environments both indoors and out, driven by the larger environmental impact.

Rosenthal began her career in Texas as a landscape architect. She returned to Central New York and became president of Rosenthal Companies. Rosenthal also served as director/treasurer of the Onondaga County Water Authority where she was responsible for the cost-effective distribution of safe drinking water to nearly 90,000 customers.

After selling the business in 2006, she served as director of strategic initiatives and corporate relations at the Syracuse Center of Excellence and Environmental Systems at Syracuse University. Rosenthal is the executive director of the Metropolitan Water Board, an Onondaga County agency that is responsible for providing drinking water from Lake Ontario into the Central Upstate New York region.

"Your career path doesn't have to be linear or perfect to be successful," said Rosenthal, "you just have to get started."

This marked the first year the Incipiens Quercu Award was presented. It is given to a recent ESF graduate who exemplifies the College's commitment to environmental stewardship. Since graduating from ESF in 2003 with a bachelor of science in environmental and forest biology, Testa received his master and doctoral degrees from the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science where he is an assistant professor in the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory.

He focuses his career on understanding fundamental processes that regulate coastal ecosystems and applying that knowledge toward solutions of estuarine and coastal ecosystem environmental issues.

Said Testa, "Never shy away from the opportunity to take your skills and to make the world a better place."