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SUNY Potsdam speaker tells graduates to enjoy life’s journey

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POTSDAM — Mining for silver in Alaska, working in a zoo in Belize and acting as publicists during Fashion Week in Paris.

These were a few of the amazing things 2012 graduates of SUNY Potsdam have already accomplished, according to President John F. Schwaller, who welcomed 750-plus new grads to the university’s ranks of more than 38,000 alumni around the globe during its 178th commencement celebration held outdoors Sunday in the Academic Quad.

And, Mr. Schwaller said, this is only the beginning.

“I can hardly wait to see the things that you will accomplish,” he said. “Or, in the words of Dr. Seuss, ‘Oh, the places you’ll go!’”

One Potsdam alumnus, Anthony B. Brennan, Ph.D., class of 1975, Saturday’s keynote speaker, quoted Robert Frost during his commencement speech, describing how he “took the road less traveled” after leaving Potsdam upon graduation.

“It doesn’t matter which road you take. What matters is the impact the journey has on you and what you do with it along the way,” Mr. Brennan said. “Pay attention to the journey.”

Mr. Brennan, inventor of Sharklet — a bio-inspired product that imitates the teeth-like scales of shark skin and will protect humans from harmful bacteria without requiring the use of antibacterial chemicals and drugs — talked about his career path and shared with graduates how it took him from Potsdam to points around the world.

“Be confident in your abilities. Your degree represents far more than the completion of the required courses. It symbolizes your potential and opportunity to succeed. Success, however, depends upon you and how you use the knowledge gained here,” he said.

Awarded an honorary doctor of science degree from SUNY, Mr. Brennan is testing Sharklet on Foley urinary catheters in Europe and using surfaces at his alma mater as a proving ground, too. SUNY Potsdam is in discussions to be the first university to test the bacteria-resistant material on high-touch areas around campus.

Three members of the Class of 2012 also spoke during commencement: academic honorees Renee C. Krusper and Tyler E. Thomas, and outgoing Student Government Association President Sam E. McCaffrey.

Ms. Krusper, graduating with a 4.0 grade point average and degrees in psychology and English with a minor in human services, urged her fellow graduates to put the most important things — loved ones, passions and their health — first in their lives.

“There’s always room for a cup of coffee with a friend,” she said.

Mr. Thomas also earned a perfect grade point average with a degree in music education and a minor in jazz studies. He spoke about how overwhelmed he was when considering the immense achievements of past Crane School of Music students and professors, but eventually he realized he could also achieve great things if he put his mind to it.

“I realized then that success is a decision,” he said. “Never settle for your passive state of being, but rather strive every day to become your ideal vision of you.”

Mr. McCaffrey, who earned dual degrees in politics and American literature, provided the morning’s humor, joking with classmates that they must be glad to put off their job search or graduate school work for a few more hours.

“But seriously, the all-nighters, the early mornings and the small fortune we spent on energy drinks have all led to this moment. We have succeeded and we should be proud. I know that after we, being Potsdam Bears, are done hibernating until the job market has turned around, will become the leaders, the decision makers and the success stories that we have proven ourselves capable of being,” he said.

Stephen D. Immerman — Class of 1975, president of the Potsdam College Foundation board of trustees and president of the Montserrat College of Art in Beverly, Mass. — was honored with the prestigious 2012 Roger B. Linden Distinguished Service Award.

Commencement concluded with the conferring of baccalaureate degrees to 751 students, including bachelor of music, bachelor of arts, bachelor of fine arts and bachelor of science degrees.

SUNY Potsdam also graduated 173 master’s degree recipients in its sixth annual master’s commencement ceremony Saturday in the Helen M. Hosmer Concert Hall.

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