Graduation day was today for more than 2,000 Stony Brook students, roughly half of whom earned a bachelor’s degree. They wore red gowns with the Stony Brook logo on chest and matching red caps as they proceed to their seats to the sound of the Stony Brook Brass.

The Main Arena was decorated for the event with the flags of all of the graduate’s native countries, as well as those of all 50 states. The podiums were surrounded by a massive arc of red and yellow balloons hung from the back wall.

Many families from the front rows of the bleachers surrounding the procession climbed down onto the auditorium floor to get a photo of their proud graduate passing by.

For the families that couldn’t make it to the ceremonies, Stony Brook provided a webcast live on their site. They also projected the feed onto screens for the audience, but they were too small and close to the lights do anyone much good.

Music student Seung Hee Lee performed both the Star Spangled Banner and the Stony Brook Alma Mater, impressing the audience in the process. “Wow,” remarked the man sitting next to me. “And that’s a hard song to sing,” his wife added.

President Stanley delivered the commencement speech in which he talked about two of the incredible students that were graduating that day. Both of his choices, Belynda Joseph and Lt. Stephen Healy, were older students either returning to or starting school.

Joseph, who returned to the university in 2009 after taking a leave of absence, drastically changed her studies earlier this year when her native Haiti suffered an earthquake. Healy is a former firefighter and a first responder on 9/11 who graduated with a .

He went on to talk about our great diversity “Many schools talk about preparing their students for a global society, one where understanding other cultures is crucial for success. We already have that here at Stony Brook.

Stanley concluded his speech by talking about the staff-student relationship, especially when that professor becomes a mentor. “Do them a favor,” he said, “keep in touch. Tell them how you’re doing. They’ll be there with free advice, and those ever-important recommendations.

He gave the students who received Summa, Magna, and Cum Laude honors a standing ovation, which then he extended to all graduates.

After the speech, the graduates marched across a red carpet made of tarp and duct tape to receive their degrees and a handshake from either Stanley or Kaler. They then walked off stage, got their picture taken in front of a green screen, and sat back down.

Because of the large number of graduates, the deans took turns reading off student’s names from two lists. As a result, some students were difficult to hear because their name was being read at the same time as another one.

During the long process of reading names, one only needed to look around at the crowd for entertainment. One couple, who entered half way through the ceremony, brought a bouquet of over-sized Minnie Mouse and Spongebob balloons. The large cartoon characters smacked into security as the pair walked to their seats. Another parent held up a poster of their child in a white gown and cap.

When the ceremony ended hundreds of overinflated red and gold balloons were dropped into the crowd. The fall proved too much for the thin plastic and they began to pop before they even hit the ground. They also gave the recent graduates an idea. The class of 2011 spent their first few moments as Stony Brook alumni popping and playing with balloons. Many of them will enter the real world for the first time tomorrow, but for now, it was time to have fun.

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