Smiles, sunshine, sweets and song punctuate Commencement

As students began to line up for Cornell’s 2019 Commencement May 26, the morning skies that threatened rain gave way to rays of sunshine wriggling between the clouds. Families noshed on bagels, cream cheese and coffee in Collegetown before heading to Schoellkopf Field for the pomp and circumstance.


Hansika Iyer

Joe Wilensky/Cornell University

Hansika Iyer ’19 wears a mortarboard with a nod to the late Cornell astronomy professor Carl Sagan and to 2019 Convocation speaker Bill Nye ’77.

Hansika Iyer ’19, a member of the Big Red Raas competitive dance team, made her way to the lineup. Iyer’s mortarboard sported fresh art with the words: “We are made of star dust,” a salute to late Cornell astronomy professor Carl Sagan’s original assessment of humanity as “star stuff,” and to 2019 Convocation speaker Bill Nye ’77. Said Iyer: “When I was younger, Bill Nye sparked my passion for science.”

Walking in the graduation procession with Brittany Papa ’19 was Shamus, a 10-month-old German shepherd service dog-in-training with Guiding Eyes for the Blind.

The School of Hotel Administration’s Jose Frayre. M.M.H. ’19, and Dennis Gonzales, M.M.H. ’19, wore matching commencement cords made of wine corks and plastic grape bunches. Frayre and Gonzales trained weekly as competitive wine tasters with Cornell Cuvee, the university’s wine education and blind-tasting society. Frayre’s favorite wine? Syrah from France, he said. Gonzales’ favorite: Tawny port, aged 20 years. “It’s fine wine,” Gonzales said.

Becca Lublin ’19 earned her bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering; her mortarboard invoked Henry David Thoreau’s “Walden,” with an exclamation: “I built my foundation.”

Over in the Architecture, Art and Planning lineup area, the mortarboard of art major Jada Haynes ’19 featured gold leaf in a beautiful pattern, made with her leftover art supplies. Haynes recounted a story from last week, while she awaited graduation: She found a chair, hauled it up Libe Slope, broke it on purpose, reassembled it differently and adorned it with glitter. She explained that, as an artist, “sometimes you have to break things and put them back together.”


Running to commencement

Jason Koski/Cornell University

A member of the Class of 2019 rushes to arrive on time to the Arts Quad for the procession.

After five years of study and hard work, architect Ainslie Cullen ’19 said she was ready for graduation, but she will stay in Ithaca this summer to teach Introduction to Architecture at the Summer College for high school students.

The families and friends of graduating students began arriving in Ithaca on Friday, but enjoyed hanging out Saturday.

The extended family of Samir Jain ’19, recent captain of the Cornell Bhangra dance group, hung out Saturday afternoon eating snacks at Schoellkopf Field, waiting for the Convocation crowd to clear. Among the large entourage were his brother, Sahil Jain ’14, and his parents, Lalit and Abha Jain. Additionally, Samir’s uncle Dr. Raj Jain ’92, aunt Aanchal Jain and cousin Tara Jain ’23, an incoming freshman, toured Ithaca’s gorges in the afternoon.

Across campus, business thrived at the Cornell Dairy Bar, with two long lines moving quickly.


Grads arrive

Jason Koski/Cornell University

Students from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences arrive at Schoellkopf Field for graduation on May 26.

For his graduation weekend, Ikenna Onyekwere ’19 enjoyed the dairy’s berry good Alumni Swirl, while friends Ankit Rana ’19 savored Bavarian Raspberry Fudge and Kevin Chen ’19 relished Kahlúa Fudge. “Finally, I’m an alumnus – that’s why I got Alumni Swirl,” Onyekwere said.

Friends since their freshman year in Balch Hall, Lina Huang ’19, Julie Lim ’19, Erika Kim ’19 and June-Summer Kim ’19 have been inseparable for the last four years. Whenever they went to an event, they always took a photo together. The friends do, however, have different ice cream preferences: Huang ate maple walnut, Lim enjoyed Big Red Bear Tracks, June-Summer Kim savored the mango sorbet, while Erika Kim preferred Cornelia’s Dark Secret. “It’s a classic,” Kim said.

The parents of Sebastian Forero ’19 enjoyed the campus on Saturday afternoon. Father Luis Forero and mother Gladys Ayure came up from Florida; the family is originally from Colombia. Ayure is particularly proud of her son graduating from Cornell and for the opportunities this affords him.

Junlan Lu ’19 – serving Ezra’s Morning Cup and mint chocolate chip ice cream to his family – recalled fond memories of his engineering physics major.

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