SUNY Potsdam Awards 187 Master's Degrees at 2011 Commencement


Graduate Students leaping after receiving degree
SUNY Potsdam graduate students leap for joy outside Helen M. Hosmer Concert Hall after earning their master’s degrees.

The State University of New York at Potsdam awarded 187 graduate degrees at its sixth annual Master’s Commencement Ceremony, held in Helen M. Hosmer Concert Hall at The Crane School of Music, on Saturday, May 21.

The celebration included an address from Dr. William J. Amoriell ’68, Dean Emeritus of SUNY Potsdam’s School of Education and Professional Studies. The alumnus retired in January after serving for 14 years as Dean. His address was entitled “A Bend in the River.”

“Twice I’ve had the honor of congratulating you: once in your letter of acceptance, and today as you receive your diploma. There is a real pleasure in having the opportunity to have the first and last word,” Dr. Amoriell told the graduate students. “I am of the belief, like Mark Twain, that rivers can teach us a lot about our interconnectedness, if we press the pause button on our hectic lives and take time to reflect. Like the Raquette River, which affects and is affected by everything in and around it as it flows 170 miles from its source near Blue Mountain Lake to its meeting of the St. Lawrence River, so too is everything on this planet. We must remain in awe of the wonders of life. They will beat back the discouragement, cynicism, apathy and doubt that creep into life.”

Amoriell told the master’s candidates a parable about townsfolk who kept finding bodies floating down their river. Every day, they would bury the dead, care for the sick and taking in the healthy children who drifted by. Yet no one thought to go beyond the bend to find out what the source of the trouble was.

“You are here today by virtue of your talents, gifts and privileges that have been bestowed upon you. They have also given you a special responsibility. It is incumbent on all of you to travel around that bend in the river, in order to seek true success and become a full participant in helping to make this a better world for all,” he said.

College President Dr. John F. Schwaller, who is a professor of history, reflected on SUNY Potsdam’s long legacy in his remarks.

“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,” Dr. Schwaller said. “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.”

Student Government Association President Leanne Merrill had the distinct honor of earning her master’s degree before receiving her undergraduate diploma. That’s because the multi-talented student leader will receive a total of three degrees this weekend—a Bachelor of Arts degree in music from Crane, along with combined Bachelor and Master of Arts degrees in mathematics, not to mention a minor she picked up in environmental studies. She spoke to her fellow master’s graduates at the ceremony.

“Your future is now brighter because of the high level of coursework you’ve done. Be proud of your accomplishments. Whether you’ve been at Potsdam for just a year, have returned after a hiatus, or have been here for five years in a row (like me), know that you are a part of the Potsdam family,” she said. “Remember and take pride in our alma mater. We are all responsible for demonstrating the value of a Potsdam education to the world.”

The ceremony concluded with the conferring of 187 Master of Arts, Master of Music, Master of Science in Education and Master of Science in Teaching degrees.

SUNY Potsdam’s 177th Commencement celebration continued on Sunday, May 22, when the College graduated 658 undergraduates in its Bachelor’s Commencement Ceremony in the Academic Quad.

To read the Commencement programs from this year’s celebrations at SUNY Potsdam, visit