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SUNY Plattsburgh Confers Degrees on Class of 2024 at Spring Commencement

Enyedi with grad

SUNY Plattsburgh congratulated some 850 undergraduate and graduate students on their graduation at three separate ceremonies Saturday, recognizing students who majored in one of dozens of programs offered at the university.

The May 18 graduation at the field house honored those students from the School of Arts and Sciences at 9 a.m., the School of Business and Economics at noon, and the School of Education, Health and Human Services at 3 p.m. Student guest speakers from each school addressed their classmates at each of the three ceremonies.

Undergraduates who entered their first year at SUNY Plattsburgh under pandemic protocols entered the gymnasium Saturday to the applause and cheers of family and friends, accompanied by the traditional “Pomp and Circumstances." Many graduates and their family members were seen wiping tears away as they took their seats. Faculty, staff and platform guests followed, escorted by members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Bagpipe Band as they performed the traditional Scottish folk song, "Scotland the Brave and The Rowan Tree."

The National Anthem was then performed by members of the Plattsburgh State Gospel Choir under the direction of Dr. Dexter Criss, professor of chemistry and biochemistry and director of the gospel choir.

Enyedi at podiumPresident Alexander Enyedi welcomed them at each of the three ceremonies, acknowledging at each “that our campus is situated on land that belongs to the Iroquois, Western Abenaki, Mohican and Mohawk people.

‘Honor Original Caretakers’

“We honor the original caretakers of this and surrounding land and offer respect to the Haudenosaunee, who are still here,” Enyedi said. “This land and body of water, now known as Lake Champlain, was inhabited and nurtured by these peoples for thousands of years. We must do the same to nurture and protect this sacred land.

“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.”

Enyedi turned his attention to those for whom “today is about,” he said. “I want to thank you for attending SUNY Plattsburgh. We are a better place because of your presence on campus.

“For many of you, this is your first in-person graduation ceremony. The high school class of 2020 did not see such events, so this rite of passage is particularly special,” he said. “You bore many challenges in your early university career: COVID testing, vaccinations, masking and more became part of your daily life in starting college.

“The university you experienced changed from that day, as it did for each of us,” Enyedi said. “You have persevered and overcome, which is cause for celebration.” He then directed those gathered to give graduates “a special round of applause.”

Following Enyedi’s welcome, Dr. Brent Carbajal, interim provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, presented candidates for their degrees, followed by conferring of the degrees by the president.

Student Speakers

Seniors Cole Kachejian, Adeeb Chowdhury and Jaiden Varmette delivered commencement addresses to their classmates at each of the three ceremonies.

kachejian Kachejian, a TV video production and psychology major from Smithtown, N.Y., shared a story of his personal perseverance in the face of a cancer diagnosis.

“In the fall of 2021, as I wrapped up my first semester of junior year, I was diagnosed with leukemia,” he said. “In this moment, everything changed. To be more exact, everything paused. For the next year, I had to leave my second home here to take care of my health and to take the fight back to cancer.”

While undergoing treatment, Kachejian began to “see the effects very quickly of what my diagnosis meant for my story, the pain and the revelations it would cause.”

Life ‘On Pause’

His life was put on pause, but he didn’t let it define him and he wouldn’t allow his passion and purpose be taken away. As a film-and-psychology enthusiast, Kachejian decided to document his own journey. Along the way, he came to believe and live by three mottos.

“The first is to ‘never let pain be in vain,’ (which) I say to remind myself … that whatever challenge comes at us in this life, … none of it is meaningless,” he said. “The second is ‘day by day, moment by moment, breath by breath,’ simple yet powerful words that guided me through each and every day.

motorboard“Lastly, never prioritize anything above your health, safety, love and happiness. If we do not feel secure in these pillars of our lives, building ourselves will be all the more difficult to sustain,” he said. “I am beyond fortunate to be standing here today, so trust me when I say there is so much ahead, you may not always know how hard you will get hit until it happens. Just remember there is always something you can do, always something to fight for and you do that day by day, moment by moment, breath by breath.”

Chowdhury, an economics and finance major from Chittagong, Bangladesh, shared a quote from a children’s TV show he heard one night that resonated: “The world is being quietly changed by every single moment by everyday people who believe that they can.”

“Maybe that’s what college is about — realizing that wisdom and inspiration can come from anywhere at any time,” Chowdhury said. “The moments, ideas and people who will change your world often enter your life when you’re not even looking.

Change the World

“People on this campus can change the world every day without even realizing it, and I believe this is especially true for the Class of 2024,” he said. “Our college journey began in a way that none of us could have imagined. (And) within a bizarrely short amount of time, it occurred to all of us that our college experience might look very different … what we had been dreaming of. And yet, we responded by looking out for each other because that’s what Cardinals do.”

As the world changed “on a scale unseen in decades, students on this campus stood up for human rights, justice and equality, because that’s what Cardinals do.”

Chowdhury told his classmates how he has seen “cultural events full of people from every background who are there to learn about different ways of life without judgment and without hesitation. I have seen kindness, curiosity, and integrity. I see people quietly change the world by teaching and taking care of each other. Because that’s what Cardinals do.”

graduation crowdAmong those in the audience are future CEOs, businesspeople, economists, accountants, and teachers, Chowdhury said.

‘Stand Up for What Matters’

“But I know I am also speaking to people who will stand up for what matters to them. People who will go out their way to help, support, and inspire others. People who will create beautiful art and tell incredible stories. People who will embody the revolutionary powers of kindness, integrity, creativity, and love. Because that is what Cardinals do,” he said. “So, please, know that you can change the world. You have already changed each others.’”

Port Henry N.Y. native Varmette is earning a combined bachelor’s and master’s degree in childhood and special education and spoke to how her being there was much more than just a ceremony.

“It is a celebration of destroying generational obstacles,” she said. For most of the family members with Varmette, the Saturday ceremony “is the first time they have attended a college graduation.”

Sharing statistics that point out how students with two college-educated parents are much more likely to earn a degree than those whose parents don’t hold degrees, she said she speaks “for everyone that you should be proud to celebrate your journey and mark the end of an unforgettable chapter of our lives.”

Thankful for Support

Varmette acknowledged the support of family, faculty members, sorority sisters, and members of clubs she joined thanking them and sharing how thankful she is that she met these “amazing, passionate people who we became so close with in four short years.”

“I can’t remember a time without my close friends being by my side, and I am saddened that there will be a time when we are apart,” Varmette said.

She expressed how difficult it was for them to have missed milestones thanks to COVID and the world that changed forever, “wearing masks in your dorm hall, tedious online classes, being quarantined in strange buildings for weeks on end,” she said. “It was truly a scary time for students and not at all what we expected college to be. (But) through all of this, I believe we discovered what college can be.”

These experiences “led us to different paths, new friends and studies, and challenged us to make the most of the little things we had previously taken for granted,” Varmette said.

“Please take with you as you leave here today the awareness that education is truly a priceless gift that not all get the privilege to receive,” she said. “Each and everyone of us stand here today because of the dedication of our past teachers, who brought out a side of us that wanted more out of life.

“As a future educator, I urge all of you to continue to be curious, ask questions and become lifelong learners,” she said.

Following the student speakers, Carter Mosher, president of the Student Association, instructed graduates to move the tassels on their mortarboards from right to left, over their hearts, as is custom. Mosher then introduced Matthew Veitch '94, Plattsburgh Alumni Association first vice president, who welcomed graduates into the alumni fold and urged them to keep in touch and return in the fall for their first homecoming as SUNY Plattsburgh alumni.

bagpipersyoung grads

burghy at graduationkid in hat

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Bagpipe Band returned to perform "The Green Hills and Balmoral," leading the newly minted SUNY Plattsburgh alumni to the lawn outside the field house to meet family, friends and classmates. 

All three ceremonies will be accessible via livestream at: https://www.plattsburgh.edu/plattslife/commencement/livestream.html.

— Story, Photos by Associate Director of Communications Gerianne Downs

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