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SUNY Potsdam Celebrates Class of 2024 at Commencement

May 18, 2024

The State University of New York at Potsdam Honors Graduates at the College’s 204th Commencement Ceremony 

Frances Irene Beshers ’24 graduated with a major in history and a minor in dance at Commencement 2024 at SUNY Potsdam. Beshers is a recipient of the Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence, and wore her special medallion at the ceremony in recognition of the honor.

The clouds parted and the stars aligned for the SUNY Potsdam Class of 2024, who celebrated their Commencement on Saturday, May 18, in a ceremony honoring all they had collectively been through and all they could achieve from this day forward. 

“For many of our graduates here today, you may have missed the experience of having a traditional in-person high school graduation in 2020. For everyone here who remembers missing special events or milestones—whether it was due to the pandemic, or another challenge life throws our way—take a chance now to soak it all in,” said SUNY Potsdam President Dr. Suzanne R. Smith. “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.” 

This year, SUNY Potsdam honored nearly 1,200 candidates for graduation, including all students who earned their degree or were eligible to graduate in 2023-24. Of those, 459 bachelor’s graduates and 305 master’s graduates crossed the stage during the sunny ceremony outdoors in the Academic Quad.

College Council Chair June O’Neill (Hon. ’99) pointed to celestial events as auspicious signs for the graduates, including the total solar eclipse that students got to experience firsthand in April and the stunning aurora borealis displays seen in local skies last week. 

“Even though you had a bit of a rough start, it’s almost like the universe is trying to make it up to you,” she said. 

Earning her bachelor’s degree in childhood/early childhood education, Millie King ’24, 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. 

Tatiana Merced ’24 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 Jacob Frenyea ’24 and Noah Unser ’24 led the crowd in the national anthems of Canada and the United States, respectively. 

Student Government Association President Kylie Wilkins ’24, who has served three consecutive terms leading the student body, delivered her third and final Commencement speech—encouraging her classmates to cultivate goodness within themselves and share that positivity with others. 

“You have the power to illuminate your path forward. You can't wait for someone else to flip the switch for you; you must take the initiative to seek out your own light. … At the end of the day, the only good thing in someone's day could be you. So, embrace the opportunity to make a difference, to be the light in someone else's darkness,” Wilkins said. “As you embark on this new journey, may you always find the light within you, and may it guide you through even the darkest of times.” 

Courtney Rust ’15 & ’17 led the graduates in the turning of their tassels after they had all finished crossing the stage, marking their transition from students to alumni.

“As an Alumni Board trustee, a proud alumna of the Classes of 2015 and 2017, and the director of the Financial Aid Office, I have had the privilege of watching many of you grow and thrive during your time here. Seeing your hard work culminate in this momentous day is truly inspiring,” Rust said. “You are now officially lifelong members of a strong and dedicated network of more than 45,000 fellow SUNY Potsdam graduates.” 

Mekayla Fountaine ’24 led the traditional singing of the “Alma Mater” to close the ceremony, accompanied by the Crane Commencement Band. 

Families and classmates cheered and embraced as the ceremony concluded, posing for photos with loved ones, friends and mentors, as they marked the end of one journey and the beginning of another. 

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 

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 2,500 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

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