Bill Dunker stood outside the Landmark Theatre in downtown Syracuse shortly before ESF’s Convocation ceremonies began, gamely posing for pictures with friends and facing the inevitable question: What’s next?
“First, I’m going to go chase coyotes with Jacqui Frair,” Dunker said, referring to the ESF faculty member who is researching New York’s coyote population. “Then I’m going to go to Huntington (Wildlife Forest at ESF’s Adirondack Ecological Center in Newcomb). Then, I got a one-way ticket to Alaska.”
He was asked if the one-way ticket meant he would not come back to New York state.
Dunker glanced at his parents, Bill and Grace Dunker, of Amherst, standing nearby.
“Well, as far as my mother’s concerned, yes, I’ll be back,” Dunker said with a laugh.
But their son’s impending departure for distant points did not dispel the senior Dunkers’ pleasure at seeing him graduate from ESF as a wildlife science major.
“It’s a great day,” Grace Dunker said.
Dunker was one of more than 400 students who received degrees at graduation ceremonies in May. The students were first honored during ESF’s traditional Convocation at the Landmark May 9, then joined graduates from Syracuse University May 10 for a joint Commencement at the Carrier Dome on the SU campus.
Inside the Landmark, as the ESF students lined up to begin the formal program, Jeff Hitchings looked around the ornate second-floor lobby of the 80-year-old theater. It was his first visit to the Landmark, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.
“This is the best possible place you could hold a graduation,” he said.
Hitchings, a Buffalo resident who majored in environmental biology, is headed to law school at Roger Williams University. He plans to focus on environmental law.
“I wanted a background that would help me understand what was going on with issues,” he said. “When there’s legislation coming out and they’re talking about wetlands or climate change, I will be able to understand the issues and be able to better argue the case.”
The College honored 342 students who earned bachelor’s degrees, about 55 who earned master’s degrees and eight who earned doctoral degrees.
“You’ve worked hard and accomplished a great deal,” College President Cornelius B. Murphy, Jr., told the graduates.
He told them he was particularly proud of the hours of community service they had dedicated to the College and the broader Syracuse area, and that he was grateful for their commitment to ESF. But he also pointed to skiing trips at Toggenberg Mountain and pizza-eating contests as events that helped shape their experience at ESF.
Murphy left the students with a traditional Irish blessing: “May the road rise to meet you, may the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face, the rains fall soft upon your fields and, until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.
“When you have the last name Murphy,” he said, “there’s always got to be something Irish.”
“You’re an extraordinary group of young men and women,” he told them. “You’re unbelievable. Go forth, make your mark and make us proud. Congratulations.”