Master's Commencement 2011

Remarks by President John F. Schwaller
May 21, 2011

Good morning. I am John Schwaller, President of SUNY Potsdam, and it is my pleasure to welcome all of you to the 2011 Master’s Commencement of The State University of New York at Potsdam.

Thank you to our Commencement singers, Kelly and Nicholas, and accompanist, Dai Yi. Thanks also, to Nelly Case for playing the organ for today’s ceremony.

I would like to recognize the distinguished members of the stage party, which includes members of the SUNY Potsdam College Council, Chair Roger Linden, Molly Clough, Bryan Hughes, Ken MacDonnell, Leanne Merrill, Pat Regan, June O’Neill and John Wicke; and members of the senior administration of the College. We also welcome to the stage our 2011 honorary degree recipient and keynote speaker for tomorrow’s Bachelor’s Commencement Ceremony, Allen Schoer, SUNY Potsdam Class of 1971.

And finally, welcome members of the faculty, parents, relatives and friends. Above all, I give greetings to our students who are graduating today. Today we recognize an important achievement in your lives. We at the College are honored to have been a part of your journey. I am very pleased to be here with you. 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 a new era in the history of SUNY Potsdam. 

This is an especially important moment in the life of this institution. This year we celebrate 195 years of service to Northern New York and the region. This makes us one of the first 50 colleges in the United States. Additionally, this year marks the beginning of a yearlong celebration of The Crane School of Music’s 125-year tradition of innovation, a program unlike any other in the country for providing exceptional music education with an emphasis on excellence in performance to our talented students. 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 more than 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, we are 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. Then, 125 years ago, Julia Crane founded the Crane Normal Institute of Music, a professional music program that was to accompany the teacher training program of the Potsdam Normal School in developing music educators who were not only good teachers, but trained musicians as well. This year we begin our celebration of that milestone in the life of the College. 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.