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Fri., Oct. 9
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Clarkson grads celebrate commencement


POTSDAM — With their last tests behind them and their future ahead, hundreds of graduates filed into Clarkson University’s Cheel Arena on Saturday for the 120th commencement.

Students from 28 states, 20 countries and right here in the north country took the stage to celebrate the educational milestone.

Jasmine K. Gifford, Watertown, became the first member of her family to receive a college degree.

“I feel like I’m being a good role model for my sister. She’s 15, and soon it will be her turn,” she said.

Ms. Gifford, a dual major in global supply chain management and psychology, was part of the state Higher Education Opportunity Program. Graduating on time was a challenge, she said, but she was able to thrive with the help of her friends, family and professors.

“Even though things were tough, and I was stressed and annoyed at times, the professors here were a great support.”

Ms. Gifford had 20 friends and family members cheering her on as she took the stage. She will remain at Clarkson, working in the human resources department as she pursues a master’s degree.

Students, no strangers to hunching over their smartphones, were encouraged to take to Twitter and share their thoughts and photos with the hashtag #ClarksonGrad.

The college honored several students for their accomplishments, including Martin W. LaFleur, a biomolecular science major and Potsdam native. He spent much of his time in college studying cancer treatments, and will head to Harvard University in the fall to begin a Ph.D. program.

“I’ve always wanted to work on cancer,” he said. “I really like science in general. Cells are cool, and cancer is basically one cell that’s messed up.”

Mr. LaFleur worked with cancer experts at Clarkson and in New York City to research new, less harmful treatment methods, all while maintaining perfect grades. He plans to continue breaking new ground in years to come. For his efforts he was awarded the $1,000 Frederica Clarkson Award, one of two awards given to the top members of their graduating class.

Jared D. Smith, Bay Shore, received the other, the Levinus Clarkson Award. Mr. Smith is an environmental engineering major who was awarded for his research into various ecological and environmental projects.

University President Anthony G. Collins congratulated graduates for their accomplishments both in and out of the classroom, and admonished them to use their skills and opportunities to benefit others.

“You have earned a degree that will open doors for you,” he said. “Use it to open doors for others as well.”

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