Thank you very much.
First of all I’d like to say good luck to all of our graduates here today. Today we recognize an important achievement in your life. We at the College are honored to have been a part of your journey.
I am very pleased to be here with you today. This is a wonderful college and I am honored to be your President and to work with such an outstanding group of faculty, students, and staff as we move into an exciting era in the history of SUNY Potsdam.
This is an especially important moment in the life of this institution. This year we celebrate 194 years of service to northern New York and the region. Many of you will receive degrees in teaching and education. You become part of a legacy that we inherit from St. Lawrence Academy. The Academy was founded in 1816 in order to provide higher education to the citizens of northern New York. Specifically it sought to train teachers from this region. In fact during the first dozen or so years over 40 teachers graduated to go on to serve the towns and villages of the region. By 1834 the State of New York added teacher preparation to the list of degree programs that it would support with tax dollars. As a result last year we celebrated our 175th anniversary of state supported teacher education, one of the oldest programs in the nation. In 1867 the Academy was transformed into the State Normal School at Potsdam. As you likely know, the normal school was an innovative type of teacher preparation that flourished in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Potsdam was indeed fortunate to be chosen to be the home to the second generation of normal schools established in New York. Consequently, you all stand at the edge of a tradition that is now nearly 200 years old.
One of the hallmarks of that tradition is the excellence of the education received by our alumni. When I have spoken to alumni about their time here at Potsdam, nearly all remember the individual attention they received from our faculty and staff. Each of you has had many opportunities to work closely with faculty and other mentors on campus. There has been a cloud of well wishers surrounding you during your time here in Potsdam. It is this handcrafted education, and the relationships that you have built on this campus, that have become the touchstone for the high quality education that we provide here at Potsdam.
This year we have had to deal with many unanticipated challenges caused by the economic situation in which we find our state and nation. As students, I know that you have had to cope with many challenges, yet in the end you have succeeded and stand ready to receive the recognition for your efforts. Our College, too, has worked through adversity with creativity. I am so very proud of all of the efforts of the faculty and staff to provide you with the best educational opportunity possible.
As you leave this place, remember that you will always be part of our SUNY Potsdam family. Become active in our Alumni Association. Let the world know how much the education and experiences you had here mean to you. As they say at my alma mater “Do well and do good.” And as Garrison Keillor says, “please keep in touch.” Congratulations to you all.