Bachelor's Commencement 2011

Remarks by President John F. Schwaller
May 22, 2011

Good morning. I am John Schwaller, President of SUNY Potsdam. I am pleased to welcome all of you to the 2011 Bachelor’s Commencement of the State University of New York at Potsdam.

Thank you to our Commencement Singers, Sara and Meryl, and members of the Commencement Band, conducted by Dr. Michael Schaff of The Crane School of Music faculty.

Welcome, distinguished members of the stage party and particularly Carl Hayden, Chairman of the State University of New York Board of Trustees. I also wish to recognize the members of the SUNY Potsdam College Council who are in attendance today, including Chair Roger Linden, Molly Clough, Bryan Hughes, Ken MacDonnell, Leanne Merrill, Pat Regan and June O’Neill.               

And of course, 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, and we are extremely proud of you. 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 New York. 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. Although some of you may feel as if you have been here for over a century, today I want to congratulate all of you: the graduates who took only three years, the normal plan graduates who leave us after four years, the extended plan graduates who took five years, and even those of you who graduated according to your own schedule. Congratulations!

When many of you arrived on campus I had the honor of addressing you. At that time I shared two simple messages with you. The first of these was to not be afraid to reinvent yourself. What I said to you then is equally valid today. As you graduates go out into the world you have a unique opportunity to reinvent yourselves. Armed now with your degrees and experience you truly can become the person you wish to be. You can be just about anything that you wish to be. You can pursue additional education; you can serve your country and yourself in so many ways. But most importantly, you can reinvent yourself. Make yourself the person you have always wanted to be, starting here, starting now. 

Secondly, I told you that you are going to be OK. Our lives are a mixture of highs and lows, tragedies and triumphs. We celebrate together and we grieve together. SUNY Potsdam is a supportive place that both challenges students to exceed their own expectations, yet provides a safe place for them, in good times and bad. The bonds that you have made here will last your lifetime. Armed with your experiences from SUNY Potsdam, with the knowledge you have gained here, the friends you’ve made among your peers and the faculty, and with your own families to support you, everything will be OK. So I charge you to take a long look at yourself. This graduation provides you with a unique opportunity to make a new beginning.  Promise yourself that tomorrow and thereafter you will be the person you want to be. Be yourself. Live up to your own expectations for yourself. You can do this secure in the knowledge that you are going to be OK. These lessons will help you confront any adversity which might come your way.

Our College is celebrating its 195th birthday this year. The College has persisted and flourished because of the love and commitment of its faculty and staff. In this difficult economic climate, we continue to flourish because of their efforts. They have given tirelessly of themselves to further your education. They have given to you the most precious gift that they can give. They have given to you of themselves and of their time. Please join me, graduates, in a round of applause for the faculty and staff of the College.

Lastly, as you leave this place, remember that you will always be part of our SUNY Potsdam family. Our history is your history. The place called Potsdam will ALWAYS be your home. This College is your alma mater, which in Latin means stepmother. So as you leave this place, remember to please come back home. Please remember your Mother, your alma mater. Become active in our Alumni Association. Let the world know how much the education and the experiences you had here mean to you. As they say at my alma mater “Do well, and do good,” but most of all as Garrison Keillor says, “Please, keep in touch.” Congratulations to you all.