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Final Saint Rose commencement ceremony set for Saturday

The College of Saint Rose in Albany, New York
Samantha Simmons
The College of Saint Rose in Albany, New York

The College of Saint Rose will celebrate its 2024 commencement this weekend, the last graduation ceremony for the 104-year-old school.

Amid financial struggles, the private college faced declining enrollment in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and a shrinking pool of high school graduates nationwide. The closure, announced in November, will leave empty physical and emotional spaces in Albany, where it was founded in 1920 as a women's college and went co-educational in 1969.

Senior Abby Bravo is a communications major at Saint Rose. She has mixed emotions about Saturday's graduation.

“I knew it was gonna be bittersweet, just because I love this school a lot," said Bravo. "So graduating is going to be hard no matter what. But this really threw a curveball in my plans. Just watching everything wind down with me is really interesting in a way because, you know, usually, there's the campus tours of the new freshmen that are coming and people that are, ‘oh, we're getting ready for next year’ and all this stuff, but that's not happening anymore.”

Bravo says she feels bad for the students who will never get to graduate from Saint Rose.

“Thankfully, a lot of the juniors were able to, you know, double up on credits and that kind of thing, and a lot of them are graduating. Our graduating class is a little over 1,700. So that's pretty substantial, considering previous graduation years and regular class sizes. But for the sophomores, the freshmen, the juniors that didn't get to make it out, it just sucks because the community we have at Saint Rose is so unique,” Bravo said. 

Bruce Roter, a music professor at the college for 25 years, sued the college after his position was eliminated in 2020 as part of cost saving move. 

"I watched as the college grew, and now we all bear witness to its demise," Roter said. "In the end, I believe there will be two legacies for Saint Rose. One legacy will be the achievement and resilience of the class of ‘24. And for those students forced to pave their way at other institutions, the other legacy will be one of abject failure on the part of the administration and the Board of Trustees. But my thoughts these days are with the students and their families, the faculty and staff, and of course with this community."

The graduation ceremony takes place at 10 a.m. Saturday at MVP Arena and will be livestreamed. The commencement address will be given by Director of Spiritual Life Joan Horgan, a 30-year member of the Saint Rose community.

“I've been really reflecting a lot on the long history of the college. A history with so many wondrous chapters and how precious it becomes, at a time when it's finite. When you're saying ‘this is the last one,’ it helps you to think more deeply about what that story has been, what those 104 years have meant,” said Horgan. 

Saint Rose Board of Trustees Chair Jeffrey Stone says decisions on what to do with the dozens of buildings throughout Albany’s Pine Hills neighborhood have not yet been made. Albany County Executive Dan McCoy has proposed creating a county authority to ensure the 48-acre campus does not become fallow ground. McCoy is hoping New York state legislators can push the measure through before the session ends in June.

"Try to get Assemblywoman [Pat] Fahy and [Assemblyman] John McDonald and Senator [Neil] Breslin to help us do a local authority. And that will give our IDA authority to bond and we can buy the property that has the bonds on it, it's up to, I think Saint Rose up to like $48 million on the property. And then we can take that and then try to come up with a better use. So we don't end up doing what happened at Doane Stuart where it ends up rot and, you know, falling apart, being vandalized," McCoy said. 

Jeff Buell with Redburn Development graduated from Saint Rose in 2001.

"Whoever comes in and buys Saint Rose is going to need some type of economic development help, right? The numbers don't work. No one can buy Saint Rose for what the bonds are and make it actually functional. If they could, Saint Rose would still be planning to keep open for the next couple of years. So there's going to be some type of economic development there. I would love to see some dedensification spew out into the neighborhoods so that everyone can benefit. I think it's a moment in time that isn't necessarily bad, which is hard to say. But I don't think it's the worst thing to ever have happened," said Buell. 

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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