After four years of classes at the University at Buffalo, members of this year’s graduating class have plenty of knowledge.

The challenge, the past two UB presidents told graduates Sunday, is to share it with others.

“Universities are not ivory towers,” President Satish K. Tripathi said. “We are deeply connected to the communities we serve. The communities you serve in Buffalo and around the world will be richer, healthier, more sustainable places to live because of the expertise you bring to them.”

Former UB President John B. Simpson urged graduates of the College of Arts and Sciences to take Thomas Edison’s advice and “find a better way” to do things in whatever field they choose.

“There is a better way to do it,” Simpson said. “Go forth and find it.”

Simpson, who retired as president two years ago, returned to receive the Chancellor Charles P. Norton Medal, the university’s highest honor.

Hundreds of graduates assembled Sunday morning in Alumni Arena on the North Campus in Amherst for the university’s largest commencement ceremony.

It was so large, in fact, that some family members of the graduates had to watch the ceremony on closed-circuit television from the university’s nearby Center for the Arts.

While university officials said that was a first, large graduating classes are common, so the university holds 14 other commencement ceremonies through May 18. A total of 4,818 students graduated this year.

One of them, student speaker Paul M. Stephan, echoed Tripathi’s remarks – with a modern twist.

Quoting a rap artist rather than an inventor or philosopher, Stephan reminded his classmates that – in the words of rap star Eminem – “you only get one shot.”

Despite recent technological innovations and advances in science and medicine, the world is still full of challenges and injustices, from climate change to starving children, he said.

He then told members of this year’s graduating class that they can either face the formidable issues of today “or put on our blinders and ignore the large problems of our generation.”

“This is no longer the world of our parents, and it is not yet the world of our children,” Stephan added. “It is our time. The world looks to us.”

Dr. Edmond J. Gicewicz, emeritus member of the UB Council, and SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor Diane R. Christian received the UB President’s Medal in recognition of extraordinary service to the university.

Gicewicz, who captained UB’s football, basketball and baseball teams as a student in the 1950s, founded the university’s Sports Medicine Institute and served as the UB team physician for 27 years. He was appointed to the UB Council in 1997.

Christian, a member of the UB academic community for more than four decades, has earned international renown for several books and films about death-row inmates in America.

Calyampudi R. Rao, a world leader in statistics and the namesake of the “Fisher-Rao Theorem,” also received an honorary Doctor of Science degree.

Eighty miles south, more than 600 students received undergraduate and graduate degrees from St. Bonaventure University.

Patricia Hampl, a distinguished writer and educator, delivered the keynote address. Also honored were Eugene M. McQuade, CEO of Citibank and a 1971 St. Bonaventure graduate; Daria L. Foster, managing partner of the Lord Abbett & Co. investment firm; and Cynthia Ann Zane, president of Hilbert College.

Christel Mendez, a management major from the Bronx, gave the student commencement address.