Wednesday, 24 April 2019 16:56

Distinguished Speakers to Earn Honorary Degrees at SUNY Oswego Commencement Ceremonies

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Dr. Mildred García Dr. Mildred García Submitted photo

A national education leader, a social marketing pioneer, a community-transforming philanthropist and the first mayor of the City of Framingham (Mass.) will all earn honorary degrees during SUNY Oswego’s Commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 18.

Speaking and receiving honorary doctorates in humane letters will be:

  • Dr. Mildred García, president of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, at the 9 a.m. ceremonies for Oswego’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
  • Jeff Ragovin, a 2000 Oswego graduate and the chief growth officer of Social Native, at the 12:30 p.m., School of Business
  • Noreen Reale Falcone, a respected community leader and philanthropist; and
  • Dr. Yvonne Spicer, mayor of Framingham (Mass.) – a 1984/1985 Oswego graduate and a leading national advocate for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education – at the 4 p.m., combined ceremony for the School of Communication, Media and the Arts and for the School of Education

Mildred García

As president of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities starting in January 2018, Dr. Mildred García is the first Latina to lead any of the six presidentially based higher education associations in Washington, D.C. She also was the first Latina president in the largest system of public higher education in the country, the California State University system, at California State University, Dominguez Hills in 2007.

García went on to serve as president of California State University, Fullerton from 2012 to 2018. Under her leadership, the university saw a 30 percent improvement in six-year graduation rates and a 65 percent improvement in four-year graduation rates for first-time freshmen – both university records. Fullerton, the largest university in the California State system serving more than 40,000 students and having an operating budget of almost a half-billion dollars, also eliminated the achievement gap for transfer students and cut it in half for first-time freshmen. Annual gift commitments nearly tripled. The institution is now number one in California and second in the nation in awarding bachelor’s degrees to Hispanics, as well as sixth in the nation in graduating students of color.

President Barack Obama chose García to serve on the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, and the U.S. Secretary of Education tapped her to serve on the Committee on Measures of Student Success. A first-generation college student, she earned a doctorate in education from Teachers College at Columbia University.

García holds numerous honors, including the American Council on Education’s Reginald Wilson Diversity Leadership Award, and was a Distinguished Alumni Honoree of Columbia University. She has held both academic and senior-level positions at several universities nationwide, including Arizona State University, Columbia University, Penn State University, Montclair State University, and The City University of New York.

Jeff L. Ragovin

Tech pioneer and industry veteran Jeff Ragovin – a SUNY Oswego alumnus from the class of 2000 – is the chief growth officer of Social Native, a technology platform reinventing how brands create content through people. Social Native develops high-quality, custom content; its business model involves paying talented consumers to create content for the brands they love, as the company aims to bridge the gap between supply and demand to create unparalleled efficiency and scale in the creative industry. He also serves as the founder of Ragovin Ventures, which advises startups with proven methodologies and techniques to scale faster and smarter.

Ragovin was the co-founder of Buddy Media, playing a central role in guiding the company from a start-up into the largest enterprise social marketing suite in the world. Founded in 2007, Buddy Media empowered brands and agencies to organize and control their social marketing programs. Buddy Media also enabled companies to publish content, place and optimize social ads, and measure the effectiveness of social marketing programs. Salesforce acquired Buddy Media in 2012 for $800 million.

Ragovin is often asked to speak on digital marketing at leading industry-wide events, including SXSW, Mashable, the Direct Marketing Association, CES, Digital Hollywood, Internet Week, Social Media Week, Mediapost, Dreamforce, IAB, Forbes, Startout and many others. He hosts the “Marketing Mix” podcast, which features some of the world’s most influential C-level executives.

Ragovin was born and raised in Manhattan and graduated from Oswego with a bachelor’s degree in broadcasting and mass media. He serves on the board of directors for the South Fork Sea Farmers (SFS2), a non-profit that works in partnership with the East Hampton Hatchery to create a sustainable world through aquaculture. SFS2 plays a key role in cleaning waters and providing a sustainable food production system through oyster cultivation and education.

Noreen Reale Falcone

A respected community leader and philanthropist, Noreen Reale Falcone has demonstrated an unwavering devotion to the preservation of human dignity and faith in the human spirit.

Early in her career, as an elementary school teacher in the North Syracuse Central School District, she empowered young people to believe in themselves and to achieve their greatest dreams. In the 1990s, she was invited to join the Order of Malta, the fourth-oldest lay religious order in the Catholic Church, and went on to serve from 2006 to 2009 as the first female president of the U.S. Knights of Malta, one of 59 chapters worldwide in the 900-year history of the international Order of Malta.

Among her current volunteer activities, Falcone is a member of the Board of Trustees at Le Moyne College, a member of the Syracuse Diocese Foundation Board, and a volunteer and an honorary member of the board at Francis House. In the past, she served as president of the Manlius Pebble Hill School board and president of its Board of Trustees, chair of the Central New York Community Foundation, a member of the board with the New York State Council on the Arts for eight years, and as a trustee of Syracuse Stage, among many other leadership roles.

Her philanthropy has transformed communities in Central New York. She and her husband donated a building valued at $3.3 million to provide Catholic Charities of Oswego County, and related nonprofits, with office space they needed to serve the community. Falcone also provided funding for a building for the Make-A-Wish Foundation in Syracuse. She and her family endowed the Noreen Reale Falcone Library at Le Moyne College to ensure it would be available to students for generations.

Among her many honors are the National Society of Fundraising Executives’ Philanthropist of the Year Award, the Order of Malta Grand Cross, Post-Standard Lifetime Achievement Award and Le Moyne College Leadership and Distinguished Alumni awards.

Yvonne Michelle Spicer

Dr. Yvonne Spicer, a 1984 alumna of SUNY Oswego who also earned a master’s degree from Oswego in 1985, was sworn in Jan. 1, 2018, as the first mayor of Framingham, Massachusetts, the same day Framingham officially became a city. As the first African-American woman to be popularly elected mayor in the state of Massachusetts, Mayor Spicer is focused on establishing a transparent government that inspires community involvement from all citizens.

A leading national advocate for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education, Mayor Spicer previously served as vice president for advocacy and educational partnerships at the Museum of Science, Boston, where she was known for building partnerships in STEM education with policymakers, school districts, municipalities, businesses and non-profit organizations. Prior to that, she was an administrator for Framingham and Newton public schools.

Appointed to the Massachusetts governor's STEM Advisory Council in 2010 by Gov. Deval Patrick, she served as co-chair of the council's Teacher Development Committee; she was re-appointed in 2017 by Gov. Charlie Baker, serving on the Computer Science and Engineering and the Career Pathways committees. Mayor Spicer also served on the Massachusetts Business Roundtable, the Massachusetts Office of the Treasurer Economic Empowerment Trust Fund and on the Standing Committee on Ways and Means. She served as 2018-19 president of the International Technology Engineering Education Association, an organization designed to build capacity for technology and engineering education globally. Mayor Spicer grew up in Brooklyn and has lived in Framingham 32 years.

An extraordinarily active and generous alumna of Oswego, she graduated with a bachelor’s in industrial arts and technology and a master’s in technology education. She earned her doctorate in educational leadership at University of Massachusetts, Boston. Mayor Spicer was instrumental in establishing the 2001 Massachusetts technology/engineering curriculum framework and the first-ever K-12 assessment for technology and engineering. She has also served as an advisor/content expert to the National Governors Association. Mayor Spicer has been a consultant to numerous states on technology and engineering standards, strategic leadership development and business engagement.

SUNY Oswego’s three Commencement ceremonies welcome graduates, friends and families to the Marano Campus Center convocation hall and arena. A live simulcast of the ceremonies will stream from a link that day available from the college’s homepage,

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