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Keynote Speaker

SUNY Potsdam will welcome former New York Yankee and award-winning recording artist Bernie Williams as the keynote speaker for its 2022 Commencement ceremony, on Saturday, May 21.

His visit will kick off with a special concert with the Bernie Williams Collective, presented by the Community Performance Series. The performance will be held on Friday, May 20 at 7:30 p.m., in the Helen M. Hosmer Concert Hall at The Crane School of Music. Tickets are on sale now at


Over the course of his remarkable life and career, Bernabé Williams Figueroa Jr. (Bernie Williams) has brought his exceptional talents in athletics and music from center field to center stage. The longtime New York Yankee centerfielder and Latin Grammy-nominated musician gives every performance his all, whether the venue is Yankee Stadium or the House of Blues.

Throughout 16 seasons and 2,076 games in his Major League Baseball career, Williams piled up an array of honors and accolades. The former New York Yankees centerfielder is a four-time World Series Champion, and a five-time All-Star Team member. He racked up four Gold Glove Awards and a Silver Slugger Award and was named the American League Championship Series’ MVP in 1996. In 1998, Williams became the first player to take home the AL batting title, a Gold Glove and a World Series Ring, all in the same season. He is the Yankees’ all-time postseason leader in home runs, and also has more postseason RBIs to his name than any other player in team history. Williams is one of the Yankees’ all-time leaders in every major batting category, with performance statistics that put him alongside the likes of Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio. In recognition of his achievements, the Yankees retired Williams’ jersey number, No. 51, in 2015.

Williams’ passion for music began at a young age, as he studied classical guitar in Puerto Rico. In 2003, he found time in the Yankees off-season to record and release his first album, “The Journey Within.” Blending jazz, rock and tropical rhythms, the album was critically praised and reached No. 3 on Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz Chart. His much-anticipated second album, “Moving Forward,” was released in 2009. With guest artists such as Bruce Springsteen, Jon Secada and Dave Koz, the album debuted at No. 2 and included two top singles. “Moving Forward” was nominated for a Latin Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Album in 2009. In 2011, Williams co-authored a book, “Rhythms of the Game: The Link Between Music and Athletic Performance,” along with Dave Gluck and Bob Thompson, featuring a foreword by Paul Simon.

In fitting with his career change, he completed a Bachelor of Music degree in 2016 from the Manhattan School of Music, studying with his mentor, Garry Dial. The State University of New York, through SUNY Potsdam, awarded Williams with an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree in a special ceremony in June 2019 in New York City.

On top of his athletic and musical careers, Williams has dedicated himself to philanthropy and charitable endeavors, raising funds and volunteering for Little Kids Rock, the Kids Need MORE Foundation and the National Association of Music Merchants Foundation, among others.