The State University of New York at Potsdam Honors Graduates at College’s 203rd Commencement Ceremony
The State University of New York at Potsdam honored the Class of 2023 in the shadow of the Satterlee Hall clocktower, surrounded by thousands of guests, on Saturday, May 20. A short drizzle of rain prior to the ceremony didn’t deter the joyous graduates—or the proud families and friends there to celebrate them.
“Regardless of the path you took, or the journey you traveled, you have all achieved greatness by putting in the time and effort necessary to achieve your degree. I’ve often said that graduation day is my favorite day of the year on a college campus, and that is definitely true. The air is alive with the energy of your excitement, and it’s contagious. One lesson you can learn from today and take with you in whatever you do moving forward is to show thanks and appreciation for those that help you along the way,” said SUNY Potsdam President Dr. Suzanne Smith, in her first Commencement address to the campus.
This year, SUNY Potsdam honored more than 1,000 candidates for graduation, with more than 700 crossing the stage during the ceremony.
“While your days of classes at SUNY Potsdam may end today, you are now officially alumni and your connection to your alma mater takes on a different dimension. You are part of our history and future, and we are of yours as well,” said College Council Chair June O’Neill (Hon. ’99). “Today, we are so proud of you and your accomplishments. And we anxiously wait to see what comes next for you – we know it will be amazing.”
Earning her bachelor’s degree in community health and sociology, Jaylen Kawenninon Francis-Herne ’23, of the Akwesasne Mohawk Nation, recited the Ohen:ton Karikwatekhwen (“The words before all else”) to bring everyone’s minds together to open the ceremony.
Jaylen Kawenninon Francis-Herne ’23 led the Ohen:ton Karikwatekhwen (“The words before all else”) to open the Commencement ceremony at SUNY Potsdam. She graduated with majors in community health and sociology.
Liam Kennedy Fitzgerald ‘23, a music education major, celebrates moments before walking across the stage during SUNY Potsdam’s 203rd Commencement Ceremony.
Graduating with his bachelor's degree in psychology, Joseph Agori ’23 shakes hands with SUNY Potsdam President Dr. Suzanne Smith during SUNY Potsdam’s 203rd Commencement Ceremony.
Camryn Douglas '23, a double major in arts management and dance, walks across the stage during SUNY Potsdam’s 203rd Commencement Ceremony.
Colleen Murphy ’23, a music education major at SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music, hugs her father Thomas Murphy before SUNY Potsdam’s 203rd Commencement Ceremony.
Zoe Gliganic ’23 walks through the faculty funnel prior to receiving her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in graphic design and new media at SUNY Potsdam’s 203rd Commencement Ceremony.
Sai Barnes ’23 sang a moving rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” a hymn of liberation and hope often referred to as the “Black national anthem.” Fellow Crane School of Music graduates Cole Denton ’23 and Gabriella Toriseva ’23 led the crowd in the national anthems of Canada and the United States, respectively.
Student Government Association President Kylie Wilkins ’24 told graduates how much she looked up to them all, as she urged them to keep pursuing lives of meaning.
“I believe that there are special moments in our lives where we get to pause and lay out under our stars and reflect. My question for all of you today is, when you lay out under your stars, are you happy and satisfied?” Wilkins said. “You are about to go out into the real world and pick a career. Make sure you pick one that you can find satisfaction and happiness in, because life is too short to choose things that others want for you.”
Alumni Association President Peter Galloway ’83 led the graduates in the turning of their tassels after they had all finished crossing the stage, marking their transition from students to alumni.
“We have the most dedicated and supportive alumni that anyone could ever ask for. As you continue on your life’s journey, remember that ‘once a member of the Potsdam family, always a member of the Potsdam family.’ No matter the field you choose or the geographic location you pick, just look and you will find an alum who is more than willing to connect and help you,” Galloway said.
Ethan Wagner ’23 led the traditional singing of the “Alma Mater” to close the ceremony, accompanied by the Crane Commencement Band.
The sun peeked back through the clouds as graduates streamed into the Academic Quad, embracing loved ones, favorite professors, classmates and staff members to cap off the day.
During Commencement, SUNY Potsdam honors students who have either earned their degree or are eligible to graduate during that calendar year. To learn more, view the ceremony video and read the program, visit www.potsdam.edu/commencement.
About SUNY Potsdam:
Founded in 1816, The State University of New York at Potsdam is one of America’s first 50 colleges—and the oldest institution within SUNY. Now in its third century, SUNY Potsdam is distinguished by a legacy of pioneering programs and educational excellence. The College currently enrolls approximately 3,000 undergraduate and graduate students. Home to the world-renowned Crane School of Music, SUNY Potsdam is known for its challenging liberal arts and sciences core, distinction in teacher training and culture of creativity. To learn more, visit www.potsdam.edu.