SUNY Plattsburgh Confers Degrees During Winter 2023 Commencement
Victorian composer Edward Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance” once again ushered SUNY Plattsburgh masters and undergraduate candidates into the university’s Field House gymnasium Dec. 16 for the annual Winter Commencement, where nearly 300 candidates were eligible to cross the dais.
President Alexander Enyedi presided over the exercises, first taking a moment to honor those whose land the campus sits: the Iroquois, Western Abenaki, Mohican, and Mohawk peoples.
“We honor the original caretakers of this and surrounding land and offer respect to the Haudenosaunee, who are still here. This land and body of water, now known as Lake Champlain, were inhabited and nurtured by these peoples for thousands of years,” Enyedi said.
“We must do the same to nurture and protect this sacred land. This statement is a mere fraction of the steps needed to fight against systemic indigenous erasure. We are settlers on their land, and we strive to be accountable by remembering this history and cultivating respect in our relationships with our Indigenous neighbors and the land.”
Student Honors Recognized
Students who achieved academic honors were recognized, as were “the scholars, teachers and mentors who have supported today’s graduates throughout their educational journey,” he said, asking students, family and friends gathered “to recognize the many faculty and staff members who successfully guided this graduating class through a rigorous course of academic study.”
Enyedi then turned to those in graduation robes sitting before him: “You are what today is about,” he said. “I want to thank you for attending SUNY Plattsburgh and for being our students.”
“We are a better place because of your presence as a part of this special campus community. Your years in higher education have at times been incredibly challenging; many of you began studies during the COVID-19 pandemic. No one in a century faced such difficulties and alterations of your course work and college life,” Enyedi said. “You have persevered and overcome, which is cause for celebration. You demonstrated what Cardinal Strong means.
“After you leave here today, I have great confidence you will contribute to making our world a better place for yourselves, your families, and generations to come. This is what Cardinals do,” he said. “You will take the opportunities and experience you’ve had and achieve much. At this moment, in this auditorium, I want you to know how proud I am of your accomplishments.”
Distinguished Service Award
In addition to conferral of bachelor’s and master’s degrees and certificates of advanced study, the university honored Jacqueline Madison, president of the North Country Underground Railroad Association in Ausable Chasm, N.Y., and Keith Tyo, retired SUNY Plattsburgh chief of staff, with the Distinguished Service Award, given by the Plattsburgh University Council in recognition of those who have directly or indirectly played a key role in advancing the university.
Madison, a native of North Carolina, is a U.S. Army veteran having served in the Vietnam War. After a tour in Germany, where she met her husband, Calvin, the pair lived at Fort Riley, Kansas, and then Washington State and Champlain, N.Y., where her degree in chemistry was applied first at Battelle Pacific Northwest Laboratory in Washington and then at Wyeth/Pfizer in Champlain, from which she retired in 2010.
Madison’s community involvement includes membership with the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Commemoration Committee, the Women’s Rights Alliance of New York State and the Rotary Club of Plattsburgh.
As chief of staff, Tyo was a key component of the leadership team of former President John Ettling. Tyo’s range of responsibilities included SUNY system and governmental affairs, special projects, and work on a range of issues, from emergency response to public relations. He led the university’s engagement with economic development efforts, including early work on the state START-UP NY program.
A Chancellor’s Award for Professional Service recipient, Tyo is a longtime member of the Rotary Club of Plattsburgh, having been named a Paul Harris Fellow and Rotarian of the Year, among other awards. Prior to work at SUNY Plattsburgh, he served as director of public relations at Paul Smith’s College, special legislative assistant to former New York Assemblyman John G.A. O’Neil, director of public relations/corporate development for the Adirondack North Country Association and as a radio announcer for WPDM/WSNN in Potsdam, N.Y., making use of his communications studies degree from SUNY Oswego.
Andrea Garcia, a nutrition major and chemistry minor from Nyack, N.Y., was selected to be this commencement’s student speaker. Garcia told her classmates that the old adage, “Everything happens for a reason,” can have many applications — good and bad — but that “those reasons cause you to change, grow and mature.”
“Many of us here today are first-generation college students, myself included,” she said. “There are students who want to make their families proud, students who sought a better future for themselves, their children, parents; no matter what the reason is for why we are here at this institution, I can say with certainty that we are here — at this ceremony — because of our resilience, perseverance and merit. We are here because we are in pursuit of something greater than ourselves.
“Everything in life happens for a reason, and those reasons cause you to change, grow and mature,” she said. “As we venture out into the world as graduates from SUNY Plattsburgh, we now have the opportunity to embark in the world as people we want to be. I challenge each and every one of you to make it your mission to be a better version of yourself than you were yesterday.”
Alumni Association Greeting
Dr. Brent Carbajal, interim provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, presented candidates for degrees while Marcia Cognetta, second vice president of the Plattsburgh Alumni Association and member of the Class of 1998, welcomed the new grads into the fold of alumni.
As has become the custom at SUNY Plattsburgh commencement exercises, The Royal Canadian Mounted Police Bagpipe Band performed “Scotland the Brave” and “The Rowan Tree” in procession of faculty and platform guests and “The Green Hills” and “Balmoral” in recession.
The Dec. 16 SUNY Plattsburgh Winter 2023 Commencement was livestreamed at https://www.plattsburgh.edu/plattslife/commencement/livestream.html.
For more information, contact the Office of the President at 518-564-2010 or email [email protected].
— Story, Photos by Associate Director of Communications Gerianne Downs