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SUNY Plattsburgh Ushers Out Academic Year With Annual Spring Commencement

By Gerianne Wright
May 2017

More than 1,000 graduate and undergraduate students at SUNY Plattsburgh are now official members of the Plattsburgh Alumni Association, having successfully completed their studies and been awarded diplomas at the college’s annual spring commencement ceremony May 13 at the Field House.

President John Ettling presided over the ceremony with Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs James Liszka presenting candidates for their degrees for the last time in that capacity. Liszka will step down as provost and vice president at the end of June and will return to the faculty ranks where he will teach philosophy.

Faculty Marshals

Dr. James Coffey, professor of accounting, carried the college mace as faculty marshal during the morning ceremony that honored students graduating from the School of Business and Economics and the School of Education, Health and Human Services. In the afternoon, Richard Mikkelson, SUNY distinguished teaching professor of art, carried the mace for the ceremony that marked commencement for students in the School of Arts and Sciences. The mace, handcrafted by the late Dr. Edgar Barton, SUNY distinguished teaching professor of art, is traditionally carried by the most senior members of faculty.

Honorary Degree

“We have been privileged enough to receive an unmatched education, and it is our responsibility to use that education to challenge others and to change the world.”
- Emily Knowd  '17

A SUNY honorary doctor of fine arts degree was presented to Jean-Jacques Duval, artist and glass sculptor, whose monumental works hang on campus, including the grand stairwell of the Angell College Center and in the Douglas and Evelyne Skopp Holocaust Memorial Gallery in Feinberg Library. Duval has incorporated art students in his work, giving them hands-on opportunities for creativity.

Distinguished Service Award

The Hon. Janet Duprey, who served the 115th New York Assembly District until this past year, was presented with the SUNY Plattsburgh 2017 Distinguished Service Award for her steadfast support of Plattsburgh and its mission to students.

Students Emily Knowd of Smithtown, N.Y., and Victoria Scott of Oxford, Conn., were commencement speakers for the morning and afternoon ceremonies, respectively. Knowd, a communication disorders and sciences major, imparted the idea that the education she and her fellow graduates gained during their years at SUNY Plattsburgh was a privilege and should be honored and respected as such.

‘Responsibility to Our Communities’

“I do not need to tell you that we face all sorts of problems in our world today,” she told the audience. “While SUNY Plattsburgh has equipped us with the knowledge and tools to address these questions, this knowledge is useless if we do not do anything with it. No matter what our majors are or what our aspirations are in life, we have a responsibility to our communities and our world to challenge ourselves to be actively engaged by asking the difficulty questions to ourselves and to others.

“Today, I am going to leave you all with some questions: What kind of person do you want to be? What do you want to stand for? What are you passionate about? Are you content with who you are as an individual? And are you content with the world you live in? We have been privileged enough to receive an unmatched education, and it is our responsibility to use that education to challenge others and to change the world.”

Scott, a public relations major, implored Saturday’s graduates to “take your Plattsburgh experience with you. What we learned here translates to our lives after college and some important lessons I plan on taking are as follows:

‘Value Yourself’

“You can’t please everyone; value yourself and you will set yourself up for professional success,” she said. “Never stop learning. Invest in yourself your entire life as the professors here have. (And) pay it forward. Not everyone is lucky enough to have the experiences we have. One in three people in the United States has a bachelor’s degree or higher. Being graduates of one of U.S. News and World Report’s ‘Best Colleges’ gives us the opportunity to impact those other two people around us who may be in the same place I was on my first day of college. SUNY Plattsburgh helped make my dream become a reality by helping me recognize myself for who I am and not what I thought I was supposed to be. So I challenge you all to leave here today and to push yourselves to go beyond normal. Be extraordinary. Be Plattsburgh.”

Alumni Association First Vice President Ashley Gambino ’04 and Michael Harrington ’03 G’05, member, board of directors, welcomed the newest members into the association at the morning and afternoon ceremonies, respectively. With Saturday’s graduates, membership in the association tops 63,000.


Spring 2017 Commencement Photos

Additional photos are available on Facebook.


Attention New Graduates:

Join the PAC. The Plattsburgh Alumni Community will help you network, stay in touch with your friends and keep abreast of what is happening at the college.


Contact Information

For more information about Commencement, please contact:

Office of the President
Office: 159 Hawkins Hall
Address: 101 Broad Street, Plattsburgh, New York 12901

Phone: (518) 564-2010
Fax: (518) 564-3932