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Iraq War Vet Speaking at SUNY Purchase Graduation

PURCHASE, N.Y. -- Iraq War veteran Fernando Octavio Gonzalez will be the keynote speaker at Purchase College 's 40th annual commencement ceremony on May 18.

Gonzalez, a 29-year-old White Plains resident served in Iraq from 2006-07 with the U.S. Army Reserves and enrolled at SUNY Purchase in 2009. Gonzalez, orginally from Florida, previously took classes at the University of South Florida before dropping out to enlist in the Army. A press release said that he chose SUNY Purchase because of its small size and friendliness of the students and staff.

Gonzalez also took advantage of the school's study abroad program going to Japan to study at Kansai Gaidai University where he focused on history and political science. Gonzalez's senior project focused on Chinese immigration to California in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Upon his return from Japan, Gonzalez participated in the SUNY Purchase History Club and was also a teaching assistant.

"Beyond consistently making the Dean’s List, Fernando participated in the community, on-campus and off-campus including the US Army Reserve's 351st Tactical Psychological Operations Company and International Law Society,” said Jason Alt, director of Student Life and Community Partnerships at Purchase.

Alt added that Gonzalez was selected to give the commencement address because of his ability to connect on a "human level" and his "sincere" and "humble" nature.

"I’m very proud to have been selected," Gonzalez said. "I wholeheartedly embrace the learning experience and campus life at Purchase, and am forever in debt to and connected to my professors."

Gonzalez has applied to the Teach for America program, and may commit to teaching low-income students next year.

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