Hochul, Cook to speak at commencement

U.S. Rep. Kathy Hochul and Distinguished Teaching Professor of history Bill Cook will each speak at this year’s commencement ceremonies. Hochul will give the keynote address at the morning commencement and Cook at the afternoon commencement.

Democrat Hochul represents the 26th district of New York. She was elected in May 2011 during a special election after republican Chris Lee’s resignation. Prior to this position, Hochul served as the Erie County clerk and, according to her website, was the “highest ranking elected female in the county.”

Hochul is known for her work in cutting costs to protect small businesses as well as Medicare and Social Security programs.

President Christopher Dahl said he has attempted to have N.Y. representatives speak at commencement before, among them former Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Kirstin Gillibrand. Sen. Charles Schumer gave an address at the college’s 138th commencement in 2010.

“I am excited to be delivering the SUNY Geneseo commencement address as both the Member of Congress who represents this school in Washington, and as the mother of a recent alum,” wrote Hochul via email. “I know how proud I was to watch my son accept his diploma here just two years ago, and I thank the University, the students and their families for inviting me to Geneseo to share this special day with them.”

“I’m very much looking forward to hearing Congresswoman Hochul speak,” wrote senior Skye Wilson via email. “She has been a great representative for our district and has ties to Geneseo. I’m excited to hear what she has to say.”

Cook has been teaching at Geneseo for 42 years. He teaches many of the upper-level history courses as well as INTD 105 and Humanities I.

Cook said that he learned he would be giving the speech when Dahl walked into his classroom and announced the news to Cook’s entire class.

“I was surprised,” he said. “But it was [Dahl], so he could’ve said there was going to be a fire drill and I still would have been surprised.”

With his retirement at the end of the semester, Cook said he gets to “say goodbye in an unusual way” and sees it as an “exciting way to bring together 42 years [of teaching] and share it with everyone.”

Cook was the first faculty member to give a commencement speech in 1976, which he believes is another factor in being chosen as one of this year’s speakers.

“I am delighted that Bill Cook will give the Commencement Address. He is one of our most outstanding professors – and a nationally recognized teacher and scholar,” wrote Dahl via email.

“As I travel around the country, alumni from all eras ask after him. In his 42 years on our faculty he has helped to make Geneseo the wonderful college it is. In countless ways, he embodies the ideals of liberal learning that we prize. I am pleased he will share his insights with our graduates.”

Cook said his speech will reflect on the importance of the liberal arts education and why it best prepares the graduates for the workforce of the 21st century. He said he would also like to stress not only why the graduates attended college, but also why they specifically chose Geneseo.