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1 Family Earns 16 SUNY Degrees, Attends 11 SUNY Campuses

SUNY Family

In 2013, this fantastic display of SUNY pride was tweeted and gained a lot of attention. We at SUNY love to see the “family tree” of SUNY schools that begins to develop in families across New York State, so we reached out to the family to learn more about the photo. As Katie Weber (SUNY Ulster, Stony Brook) explains, it was a bittersweet occasion:

[dropcap style=”color: #004C93;”] T [/dropcap]o fully appreciate this picture, you need to know a little bit about our family.  Our grandparents had six children.  The six kids grew up, got married, and had children of their own, for a current total of 19 grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren and one more on the way.  Though our grandparents began the tradition of having all of us get together for an annual summer vacation, the fifty of us live in five different states leading busy lives, and it is quite rare for everyone to be together.

However, we try to see each other as often as we can whether for Thanksgiving, barbecues, or (many SUNY) graduations.  We always have a great time in those rare and wonderful moments we get to share in the same place.  As I have gotten older, I have realized how extremely blessed we are to have such a large family that (almost always!) gets along.  As a testament to this, I make sure to take lots of pictures at family gatherings, to commemorate and celebrate our times together.

It was sometime around 2010 when I realized that all of the cousins who have gone to college so far have attended a SUNY school.  As you can see from the list below, we have students/graduates from community colleges, four-year schools, and all four university centers.  Once I realized this phenomenon, I knew I wanted to get a picture with each of us representing our school(s), to add to my collection of family photos.  Well, as the old saying goes, this turned out to be easier said than done.  Those who have graduated were busy working and raising families of their own, and those who are in school are busy with classes, homework and activities.  Many of us see each other in Wildwood and at various times throughout the year, but there was always someone missing.

I kept the idea in the back of my mind, hoping that an opportunity would present itself eventually.  This past May, our grandmother passed away after a five year battle with pancreatic cancer.  Her last wishes were that we celebrate the life she lived, instead of mourning the life she left.  As per her request, this meant throwing a massive party and dancing the day away!  This brought even those living great distances away back together again.

The party our grandmother wanted required booking a venue and several weeks of preparation.  About two weeks prior to her Celebration of Life, I realized that all of the SUNY cousins would be present and we could finally take the picture.  Before she passed away, I had told my grandmother about the picture idea and she loved it!  I knew taking the picture at her party would make it even more meaningful.

Everyone agreed to bring something from their school to the party.  We borrowed two of the shirts, and the SUNY Orange bag was a gift from Admissions.  (Special thanks to Maynard Schmidt!)  As you can see, we were all dressed up and put our school gear on as best we could.  At the last minute one of my cousins, a SUNY Orange grad, could not make the picture, and one person forgot to bring a SUNY Cortland shirt.  The picture is perfectly imperfect as we all are.  But it is the closest we will ever get, and I’m glad it finally happened!

I would like to add that everyone has been quite successful after graduation.  The graduates all have jobs, and most are married with children of their own.  Mike even met his wife (Jenny) while attending SUNY Orange, and they both went on to graduate from Binghamton.  We all have different majors and our individual experiences were unique, but being nine of SUNY’s 3 million graduates is something we will always have in common.  We believe in the Power of SUNY and are proud to represent our schools to the world!”

In the photo: Katie Weber/Chris Weber are siblings, Dan Begnoche/Caitlin Begnoche are siblings, and Lorraine Lavery/Joe Begnoche/Mike Begnoche are siblings. The families are originally from Orange County NY, Ulster County NY, and Passaic County, NJ.

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    Maxwell Morgan

      Written by Maxwell Morgan

      Maxwell is the Coordinator of Digital Engagement for The State University of New York.

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      There are 2 comments

    • Toni says:

      What a terrific story, thanks for sharing!

    • Philip James, Student Trustee, Jefferson Community College says:

      Congrats! that story is very impressive!

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