FARMINGDALE, N.Y.—An aviation student who was the only survivor of a small plane crash in Pennsylvania picked up a diploma Saturday, and expressed his undiminished passion for flying, at a graduation ceremony at Farmingdale State University.

Evan Kisseloff, 21, of Oceanside, N.Y., was able to attend the commencement just three days after walking away from the deadly wreck, which claimed the lives of two other students in Farmingdale's aviation program.

The victims, 34-year-old pilot Patrick Sheridan and passenger Casey Falconer, 19, were memorialized during the ceremony at the university's Long Island campus.

Speaking to reporters afterward, Kisseloff said his two friends were on his mind.

"I am very thankful to be here, and I know that Patrick and Casey are watching up there, and they're cheering me on," he said.

"I'm going to remember their love for flying," Kisseloff said. "This field is based on passion. It's not based on wanting to make money ... This stuff is based on passion, especially becoming a pilot. And for them to have such a passion, to be so determined to do something that they love so much, that's what I'm going to remember."

The trio had just taken off from an airport in Scranton, Pa., for a flight to Long Island's Republic Airport on Wednesday night when the plane stalled.

Kisseloff said that he realized they were going down when the left wing hit a tree.

"The first thing that came through my mind after impact was ... this is not how it's going to end with me. This can't be it. And lo and behold, it wasn't," he said.

The cause of the crash is under investigation.

Sheridan was from Long Beach. Falconer was from Garden City Park.