Students smile through the rain at Cornell's 150th Commencement.

New graduates savor memories of past four years

A guest receives his ice cream at the University Reception held May 26.

For the 5,500 graduates of Cornell’s Class of 2018, studying, finishing projects, meeting friends, making late-night food runs, enjoying music, playing sports and creating memories over the past four years simmered and blended into graduation weekend.

At the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences procession lineup area on a soggy Commencement day May 27, celebratory towels were distributed. With towel in hand, Ciara Cox, a food science major from New Mexico, said she was the first in her family to graduate from college. “I’m super proud,” she said.

Sara Hwong and Jazmin Black reflected on their Cornell career at the School of Hotel Administration lineup. Black will soon work for a restaurant data company; Hwong, who will be an environmental educator in Nicaragua, said, “I don’t want to leave.”

Engineers Daniel Fayad, from Mexico, and Katerina Prastakou, from Greece, chatted with Ritwik Dan, from Albany, New York, who said he was “a little scared and a little excited” about the prospect of graduation.

The Cornell Chorus and Glee Club Concert held May 26 at Bailey Hall.

Old friends Sarah Zumba, Robert Chirco, Tiffany Fotopoulos, Hadiyah Chowdhury and Summer Lopez Colorado talked while waiting for the procession to begin. Lopez Colorado admitted to being a little nervous about delivering graduation remarks Sunday at the Department of Sociology’s reception. “I’m giving a speech there, and I haven’t told my parents yet,” she said.

Cornell Chorus and Glee Club members Jae Noh, Brigid Lucey, Nathan Kashdan and Jae Hun Shin – fresh from Saturday night’s concert in Bailey Hall – sang the joys of Cornell. During the last concert, for their traditional “Song of the Classes,” where students croon of their undergraduate years, Noh performed as the “freshman” soloist, Lucey sang the “sophomore” honors, Shin soloed as the “junior” and Taylor Levy sang the “senior” solo.

Families and friends started rolling into Ithaca on Friday, with bright blue skies and 80-degree temperatures. Graduating seniors took photos in front of McGraw Tower and accompanied their parents around campus.

Stephanie Espinosa decorated her mortarboard with flowers and a quote from songwriter Frank Ocean, “Work hard in silence and let success make the noise.” Her mother, Rosa Espinosa, said she is proud of her daughter’s artistic expression and her academic career and beamed, “I call her my sunshine.”

At Convocation Saturday morning, Lydia Anglin waited patiently with her family and she unveiled her eye-catching mortarboard at Schoellkopf Stadium. “This is a product of my last all-nighter at Cornell,” she laughed.

Zac Goldman waited for Convocation with his – literal – Cornellian family: his brothers Nate ’14 and Lucas ’20, parents Amy ’83 and Howard ’79, and his girlfriend Gabrielle Zacky ’19. Zac worked his way through school moving furniture for the Hired Hands moving company. “Yes, I made some money while I was in school,” he smiled, “but moving pianos was tough.”

A group of seniors rehearse tossing their mortarboards Friday afternoon on Ho Plaza.

Alberto Sandoval, a lineman for the football team, presented his sleek self to the world on graduation weekend. Competing against friends during spring semester on who could lose the most weight, Sandoval said proudly that he went from his autumnal 290-pound playing weight on his 6-foot-4 frame to 240 pounds.

At the annual ice cream social, Kai Walcott said that her family arrived in Ithaca from many points around the globe: Jamaica, England, New York City, San Francisco and Philadelphia. Joy Walcott, Kai’s mother, proudly said: “She excelled in a manner that a parent can only hope for.”

Close friends Julia Zhu, Charlotte Zhang and Shawna Su, who all earned master’s degrees in the ILR School, enjoyed ice cream on the Arts Quad. They said they met each other on Cornell’s Hoffman Challenge Course two years earlier during trust-building activities.

Unveiling the CALS towels before the procession on Sunday morning are Sage Solomine ’18, front left, Samantha Li ’18, Sara Waldeck ’18, Ciara Cox ’18, Danielle Clark ’18, with Shea Belsky ’18, left in the back row, and Thomas Favata ’18.

Recalling Cornell memories, Michaela Posner and Morgan Cohen – friends and roommates since their first year – spoke of Netflix marathons, milkshakes, popcorn, New York City trips and eating deli sandwiches.

The most indelible Cornell experience George Ayob recalled was jumping 50 hours (with his brothers at Beta Theta Pi fraternity, where he was president) in a bouncy castle on the Arts Quad to break a Guinness World Record. Was the world record broken? He said: “We’re still waiting for confirmation.”

Beyond bouncing, Ayob has plans for medical school and has taken the MCAT. His mother, Renata Ayob, twinkled with delight: “Just looking at him makes me so proud. He has exceeded everything he had a dream about.”

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Lindsey Knewstub