June 7, 2013

SUNY Empire State College Hudson Valley Center 2013 Graduation

Robert J. Castelli ‘95 to Address Graduates, Laurel Massé ‘05 to Receive the Distinguished Alumni Award

(HARSTDALE, N.Y. – June 9, 2013) Students of SUNY Empire State College's  Hudson Valley Center will hear from two alumni and two of their fellow degree candidates as part of the center’s 2013 graduation ceremony.

Robert Castelli ’95, a Vietnam-era veteran, career law-enforcement officer and former member of the New York State Assembly will provide the commencement address. Laurel Massé ’05, founding member of the vocal group Manhattan Transfer will receive the college’s Distinguished Alumni Award and provide remarks.

Students Anne McDonald Galletta and Chana C. Hamilton will offer remarks on behalf of their fellow students at the center’s 2013 graduation. These students are among the 175 graduating from the center and the more than 3,400 students who will graduate from the college.

“I have spent all of my adult life in the service of my country and my community,” said Castelli. “In each position I have held, my education played a major role in my success and effective delivery of services to our citizens and my constituents. I am so grateful that Empire State College was there for me when I need them most.”

"My experience at SUNY Empire State was more rewarding than I ever imagined it would be," said Massé.

“Bob Castelli, Laurel Massé, along with the student speakers and all of the soon-to-be graduates, represent and remind us of the mission of Empire State College,” said Gary Lacy, dean of the Hudson Valley Center. “Bob’s accomplishments after leaving Empire State College have been enormous, and we are all beneficiaries of his deep belief and commitment to public service. Laurel’s accomplishments in the music world are renowned nationally and internationally. We are truly the college that helps shape futures.”

“To my fellow classmates, congratulations, I applaud you for your hard work, perseverance and achievement. What a feeling and what an accomplishment,” said Galletta, who will earn a B.S. in business, management and economics. “Five years ago, I felt the need to further my education and work towards a bachelor’s degree. This time, I decided on Empire State College. My employer is going through a transformation and reducing staff, so, after almost 16 years, May 31 was my last day. I have prepared my bucket list and plan to take the summer off and then I’ll probably look for a job. I am not afraid. We are responsible for our own development and learning and must keep up with changing demands. Being self-starters and self-learners gives us the competitive advantage. A four-year college degree puts us in a better position and makes us more marketable and I am so thankful to have a current degree in business management and economics.”

“To my family Michelle, Pete, my partner Jack, Christine, Jeff my almost son-in-law and fishing buddy, and best friend Joanne, I say thank you. To my granddaughter Haley, ‘honey, maybe when you’re in college, Grannie Annie will work on her master’s and you and I can stand up here together.’ Anything’s possible; you just have to try and don’t let anyone tell you, ‘you can’t do it.’”

“I am pleased to say, I am a 2013 college graduate from Empire State College,” said Hamilton, who will earn a B.S. in the arts. “It’s been a very long journey for me.  I’ve been through five different colleges and it was a struggle through the years, trying to balance my outside life, college studies and physical health, but through it all I persevered. Empire State College took me in as a transfer student and accepted most of my college transcripts. Empire allowed me to combine my outside experience in work and receive college credit through prior learning assessment essays.

“I was also given academic freedom to create my own individualized major with the guidance of my mentor Dr. Miyake and professors. Empire State College was everything I could have hoped for and more. Working alongside my amazing professors, I graduated. I finally did it! We all finally did it! This is one of the happiest days of my life. Good luck to all graduates and may all our futures be bright and may we achieve all our dreams. From the bottom of my heart, thank you God, teachers, staff and loved ones for guiding me through and helping to make this day possible.”

The ceremony will take place Sunday, June 9, at 3 p.m. at the State University of New York College at Purchase, Performing Arts Center, 735 Anderson Hill Road, Purchase.

About Robert J. Castelli ’95

Robert J. Castelli dropped out of high school in 1967, joined the U.S. Army and served in Vietnam from ‘68-‘69.

Returning to the states, he completed high school, earned his associate degree from Palmer College, which has since merged with two other institutions to become Midlands Technical College, part of the South Carolina Technical College System. Castelli also began a distinguished career in law enforcement as a South Carolina state constable.

He then joined the New York State Police where he served for 22 years. Promoted from trooper to sergeant, criminal investigator and finally to station commander, he was responsible for more than 1,000 criminal arrests.

Castelli was trained in narcotics enforcement and in the supervision of narcotics cases, by both the state police and D.E.A. and functioned in that capacity. While attached to the state Organized Crime Task Force, he served as an investigator and case manager of organized and white collar crimes in the elite Special Investigations Unit of the state police.

While serving with the state police, Castelli returned to school and graduated from the college’s Hudson Valley Center in 1995 with a B.S. in community and human services. He went on to receive his graduate degree in public administration from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and was awarded the John B. Pickett Fellowship in Criminal Justice Policy and Management, through the National Institute of Justice.

After retiring from the state police and earning his degrees, Castelli began a career in higher education, joining the Iona College faculty, where he went on to become chair of the criminal justice department. He now serves as an adjunct professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York and was for many years adjunct faculty at Marist College. Castelli’s expertise in law enforcement and criminal justice has been much sought after and he has appeared and been quoted nationally and international by TV, radio and print media.

Currently, Castelli is president of Robert J. Castelli Associates, Inc., a security consulting firm. For the past three years he served as a member of the New York State Assembly through January 2013.

He is certified as a frauds examiner, crime prevention specialist, criminal analyst, protection professional, firearms instructor, police and security officer instructor and he is a licensed private investigator.

About Laurel Massé

Vocalist Laurel Massé, founding member of the vocal group Manhattan Transfer, is an internationally recognized solo artist now celebrating her 40th year as a professional singer. She is held in high esteem by audiences, critics and fellow musicians as both a performing and recording artist, and is also a sought-after teacher, speaker and writer.

She appears frequently on television and radio, and was the creator and host of “The Laurel Massé Jazz Show,” which ran for two years on WAMC Northeast Public Radio. Her numerous television appearances include Mary Tyler Moore’s 1974 television special “Mary’s Incredible Dream” and the “Manhattan Transfer Show” on CBS-TV in 1975.

In 2004 she was recognized for her contribution to music when she, along with the four current members of the Manhattan Transfer, received the prized Manhattan Association of Cabarets and Clubs Lifetime Achievement Award and was nominated Major Jazz Artist of 2006.

Massé graduated from the college’s Hudson Valley Center in 2005 with a B.A. in the arts.

About the Distinguished Alumni Award

The Distinguished Alumni Award recognizes and honors alumni of the college who have distinguished themselves in any field of endeavor since graduation. The criteria for the award include distinguished service to his or her craft or profession; or distinguished service to a local community, the state and nation, or in world affairs.

About Anne McDonald Galletta

Galletta, a resident of Port Chester, will earn a B.S. in business, management and economics is currently employed at Consumer’s Union, a nonprofit organization. Previously, she worked for more than 19 years at the Westchester County Medical Society.

Galletta earned a certificate in general business administration from Mercy College and an associate in occupational studies/computerized office administration from The College of Westchester.

Galletta also works as an election inspector for the Westchester County Board of Election.

About Chana C. Hamilton

Hamilton will earn a B.S. in the arts with a concentration in studies in dance. She has an associate from Westchester Community College and attended Hunter College, City University of New York and Hofstra University.

At WCC, she established a hip-hop dance club where she taught classes and performed at most college functions. Hamilton earned an aerobics certificate from Bally’s Fitness and was employed teaching classes in hip-hop dance aerobics to students and instructors.

Hamilton also was a member of Danceworks, a modern dance company. She founded and is the choreographer of the dance organization East Side Underground. She also choreographed for the New York City Film Festival and for the feature film “The Children of Hip Hop,” a New York City-based underground film.

She has worked and taught classes at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s AileyCamp, the Peridance Capezio Center, Ripley Grier Studios, the New Dance Group, the Broadway Dance Academy and at other organizations. Hamilton has performed in TV commercial campaigns for PBS and Z100.

About SUNY Empire State College

SUNY Empire State College was established in 1971 to offer adult learners the opportunity to earn associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the State University of New York.

In addition to awarding credit for prior college-level learning, the college pairs each student with a faculty mentor who supports that student throughout his or her college career. Students engage in guided independent study and course work onsite, online or a combination of both, which provides the flexibility for students to learn at the time, place and pace they choose.

The college serves more than 20,000 students worldwide at more than 35 locations in the state of New York and online. Its 66,000 alumni are active in their communities as entrepreneurs, politicians, business professionals, artists, nonprofit agency employees, teachers, veterans and active military, union members and more. More information about the college is available here.


Media contact: David Henahan, director of communications

518-587-2100, ext. 2918


518-321-7038 (after hours and on weekends)


Graduation contact: Joan Altman

914 948-6206, ext. 3588