Bachelor's Commencement 2012

Remarks by President John F. Schwaller
May 20, 2012

As I look around and see those of us in the stage party right now — alumni, faculty, three remarkable students and distinguished members of the College’s leadership — while we may have some fancy robes, colorful hoods, and even funny hats up here, we are NOT the main attraction. The stars of today’s ceremony are you, the 750-some graduates of the Class of 2012!

And let me tell you this: I can hardly wait to see the things that you will accomplish or in the words of Dr. Seuss, “Oh, the places you’ll go!”

Starting today, starting now, you have the opportunity to do creative and wonderful things with your lives. And I know each and every one of you will define a future uniquely your own.

How do I know this?

I know this because you have families and friends who have supported your success. None of us can do it alone and we are so fortunate to have our families and friends by our sides. Let’s thank your family members for all they’ve done. (applause)

And starting here, starting now, we’d like you to consider Potsdam a part of your family, as you join the ranks of our 38,000 alumni around the globe. Remember as you leave us today and go out into the world, we are by your side.

I know that you will create your own unique future because you have had excellent teachers and mentors and you have the advantage of an education grounded in the liberal arts and sciences, immersed in a culture of creativity in every discipline.

You have benefited from learning side-by-side with:

  • scientists so accomplished that they have joined the ranks of  distinguished SUNY professors;
  • with master teachers who share their expertise and excellence in  pedagogy;
  • with talented and experienced performers in all of the arts;
  • with scholars known for the high quality of their theoretical and  practical investigations;
  • with role models from all areas of campus who have challenged you  to do more both in and out of the classroom— Residence Life and Student  Life staff, the Student Success Center staff, all student support  professionals, and the advisors to our more than 100 clubs and  organizations.

The leadership of our excellent faculty and staff is at the heart of the SUNY Potsdam education, and I know that they are so proud of you today. Let’s thank the faculty and staff for everything they have done. (applause)

I know that you will go out and create a unique future because you have already done amazing things.

  • You have mined for silver in Alaska, taking a helicopter to work.
  • Your chemistry research has earned you numerous research  awards—and a coveted spot in top Ph.D. program.
  • You are making our community richer through countless volunteer  activities, tutoring young students, leading day camps in athletics and  the arts, pitching in for community clean-ups, raising thousands to fight  cancer and assisting our senior citizens.
  • Your artwork is repeatedly recognized as the best in the SUNY  system.
  • You’ve been named All-Americans and won All-SUNYAC honors in your  athletic careers.
  • You have worked in a zoo all the way down in Belize.
  • You are pushing innovation in emerging music technologies.
  • You have acted as a publicist during Fashion Week in Paris.
  • You have worked as interns, some of you for several times, in the  annual meeting of the National Association of Music Marketing, the largest  convention of music products in the world.
  • You have planned and executed a 20-day expedition through the  Rocky Mountains, encountering grizzly bears and wolves.
  • You are leading the campus toward more sustainable practices.
  • You’re fearless—some of you are working toward becoming  Adirondack 46ers, some even camping and climbing icy cliffs in the North  Country winter.
  • You have traversed the jungles of the Amazon, studied species in  the Galapagos Islands, and climbed Aztec and Maya ruins in Mexico.
  • You have studied politics right here in our hometown, polling  residents and analyzing issues.
  • You have worked hard to earn those spots on the Dean’s and  President’s Lists semester after semester, and many of you toiled to make  ends meet while earning your degree, holding down jobs on top of your  studies.
  • You have photographed Governor Andrew Cuomo when he visited our  campus this summer.
  • You are the future of education in New York State and beyond, and  through your student teaching experiences many of you have benefited  districts throughout our region.
  • You are dancers, traveling to train and compete, presenting your  original choreographed works.
  • You sang and played the Verdi Requiem with renowned soloists and  a world-class conductor in Avery Fisher Hall. For many of you, it was the  first time performing in Lincoln Center, and for some of you, it won’t be  the last.
  • You are playwrights, actors, and musicians, but your creativity  goes beyond the arts, too, with innovative research that wins awards again  and again.
  • Your discipline is commendable—we count newly commissioned ROTC  officers and veterans among our graduates, and we thank you for your  service to our country.

Put simply, you are AMAZING, and that is just scratching the surface.

I know that you will create your own unique future because your predecessors have proven time and again that a Potsdam education prepares students to act as engaged global citizens and to lead lives enriched by critical thought, creativity and discovery.

Our alumni have done everything from:

  • inventing transformational technologies,
  • to winning statewide elective office,
  • to founding their own vineyards,
  • to becoming university presidents,
  • to running a music school in Nigeria.

They are CEOs, performers, artists, local business owners, life-changing teachers, police officers, innovators, world travelers and philanthropists.

Put simply, like YOU, they are amazing.

So finally, I know this:

As Potsdam nears the close of her second century, as our newest alumni, you will take the lead in shaping her third century. I can’t wait to see what’s in store.

Good luck, and remember to keep in touch with us, your family here at SUNY Potsdam. Congratulations to you all.

Do well and do good.