Marist College

POUGHKEEPSIE -Take risks and treasure family and friends, graduates were told this past weekend as Marist President Dennis J. Murray conferred 1,519 undergraduate, graduate, and adult degrees in two ceremonies during the College's 66th Commencement exercises.

In a Friday evening ceremony, during which 381 graduate and adult degrees were awarded ,Lynn Bassanese'75, acting director of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum and recipient of the Distinguished Alumna Medal -- the highest award presented to a Marist graduate -- recounted her long ascent from selling 10-cent postcards in the museum shop to running the entire operation.

"Find the smartest people you can and surround yourself with them," she said. "Find the courage to do things you are not ready to do and never be afraid to ask."

Later in the ceremony,Tanya Paternogave the Excellence in Graduate Studies Award address, and Sammi Resh-Dor Vanderstok delivered the General Excellence Award address.

On Saturday, NBC News Chief White House Correspondent Chuck Todd wasawarded an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree and told the 1,037 graduates and their families and friends -- a crowd estimated to be in excess of 10,000 -- to build a career by loving what you do and taking on challenges. "It is better to say 'yes' and fail," Todd said, "than come up with an excuse and never try."

Todd, a famously hard-working reporter and host who is also a husband and father, balanced his remarks by reminding graduates to take time for their loved ones. Life's regrets come from missing time with family, Todd said, not from missing work meetings.

Todd's address was followed by that of Valedictorian Samantha Mary Tobia, who challenged her classmates to demonstrate their creativity, passion, and talent and prove wrong others' assessment of their generation as narcissistic.

Earlier in Saturday's ceremony, posthumous degrees were awarded to Eva Block and Kerry Fitzsimons, who died in a January fire in a private, off-campus house and Alyssa Martino, who died of an illness in 2010. Kevin Johnson, who also died in the fire, was made an honorary member of the Class of 2012.

On his way from Marist to Chicago to cover the NATO Summit in Chicago, Todd, a dedicated Twitter user, Tweeted, "To the entire @Marist class of 2012 and the @Marist family, thank you for everything. Now, grads, will ya hurry up and fix this country!"

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