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Day in the Sun

ILR Class of 2010 graduates receive degrees

Blue skies, just enough breeze to billow a graduation gown, temperatures in the 80s -- spectacular weather wrapped Cornell commencement and ILR's diploma ceremony Sunday.

From packed stands rising above Schoellkopf Field, families beckoned via cell phones to their graduates on the turf.

"I'm unfolding a red and white umbrella," said a man in an effort to visually signal a graduate several hundred yards below.

Later, in the cool of Lynah Rink, ILR's Class of 2010 gathered in its entirety for the final time.

The school's diploma presentation ceremony began with an address from Katz, the Kenneth F. Kahn Dean and Jack Sheinkman Professor.

Family was a theme in Katz's speech. "You will find that the pressures of work, the demands of your immediate family life, and globalization will test your ability to stay connected to your family."

More than 300 ILR diplomas were awarded Sunday.

Behind every one, there are stories.

Here is a sampling:

Kelly SaeliKelly Saeli landed at ILR in the fall of 2008 after earning an associate’s degree at Tompkins Cortland Community College.

She enrolled at ILR while her husband, James Saeli, continued at Cornell Law School.

This spring, their son, Jake, now five, welcomed a sister into the family. Emma Grace was born April 30. Weeks later, their father received his law degree and their mother received her ILR degree.

This summer, James takes the bar exam and the family moves to New York City.

A balanced marital partnership enables the compressed time line, Kelly said. "It absolutely has to be 50-50."

"And, my baby girl sleeps for a five-hour clip," she said, cheerfully in pace with a lifestyle many individuals would find exhausting.

"I'm okay, actually," she smiled. "I'm okay."

Civil engineer John "Jack" Hagen, Jr., is director of construction for Jack Hagen and Melinda Whitethe State University Construction Fund.

For decades, he has wanted to earn a master's degree. On Sunday, he collected his Masters of Professional Studies.

It took two years of weekend commuting by train and car from Albany to ILR's part-time degree program in Manhattan.

"Compared to flying JetBlue 3,000 miles, it was nothing," he laughed, referring to his classmate, Melinda White. She commuted from California to New York for the program.

Hagen, White and Leslie Granston, also a 2010 Masters of Professional Studies graduate, participated in university and ILR ceremonies on campus.  

Robin Seegers of Dearborn, Mich., transferred to ILR from Case Western Reserve University and will go to work for the Service Employees International Union.

ILR's small class sizes, an internship in Washington, D.C., and a close group of fellow transfer students helped make her Cornell years successful, she said.

"It's been a great mix."   

Ashley Louise and Heather LevyAshley Louise and Heather Levy met at Cornell Days the spring before their ILR freshman year and have been pals ever since, despite pursing different ILR and career goals.

They call theirs "a labor-management friendship." Louise is headed to a job with the New York Hotel Trades Council. Levy is off to Deloitte Human Capital.

Their common ground -- shared values -- transcends their differences, Louise said.

There have been no fights, laughed Levy, "beyond the bathroom" they shared this year as Collegetown roommates.

Louise is such a good friend she set her alarm clock for 5 a.m. the day before graduation "so that she could say 'good luck' to me," Levy said, as she departed for an early morning meeting as senior convocation chairperson.

Froilan Malit, highlighted in Cornell President David J. Skorton's Froilan Malitcommencement speech at Schoellkopf Field, learned English as a California community college student several years ago.

He grew up in the Philippines, where he picked flowers to make money.

"I'm still shocked that I'm here, that I'm graduating," Malit said Sunday as students lined up in the Arts and Sciences Quadrangle before going to the stadium for commencement.

"I'm really happy."

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