POTSDAM, N.Y. (WWTI) — The State University of New York at Potsdam honored the Class of 2022 at a commencement ceremony on May 21.

The ceremony was held in the College’s Academic Quad and was filled with nearly 5,000 guests and over 1,000 candidates for graduation. Additionally, the college welcomed back alumni from the Classes of 2020 and 2021, who had been unable to take part in the traditional in-person ceremony due to the pandemic.

Former New York Yankee and award-winning recording artist Dr. Bernie Williams was the keynote speaker and addressed graduates and their families.

“To be honest, I have had three years to think about this day, and I’m still overwhelmed with humility that I would be asked to be your Commencement speaker,” Williams said. “I feel a very special connection with this university and this community. Being here today is the culmination of one of the most significant moments in my life, and it wasn’t the World Series, it wasn’t any of that, it was being honored with a Doctor of Humane Letters degree by [former] President Esterberg in a ceremony in New York City in 2019. And I’ve got to tell you, I’ve been called many things throughout my life, but Dr. Williams is probably the coolest! Since then, I have been waiting and waiting to finally be able to travel up, visit this beautiful campus, kick off this weekend with a concert last night at Hosmer Hall, and address all of you.”

Two members of the campus community who passed away this academic year were also commemorated at the ceremony. This included late President Dr. John L. Graham and Crane School of Music senior Elizabeth Howell who was set to graduate in 2022.

Elizabeth’s father, Joseph Howell came to the stage to accept his daughter Elizabeth’s bachelor’s degree in her stead and received a standing ovation from those in attendance. He attended the ceremony along with family members and loved ones, remembering Beth and all she had accomplished. Crane School of Music Dean Dr. William Gibbons highlighted the accomplishments Howell made during her time at SUNY Potsdam.

“Beth achieved so much in her time at SUNY Potsdam and The Crane School of Music, including being named principal cellist in the Crane Symphony Orchestra. She would have been graduating with honors today, earning her Bachelor of Music degree in music education,” Gibbons said. “Beth’s family wrote that ‘she knew what we wanted out of life and went for it without hesitation.’ May we all learn from Beth’s example and follow our dreams without hesitation and without delay.”

Alumni Association President Sally Farrell Partner ’78 led the graduates in the turning of their tassels after they had all finished crossing the stage and offered them her congratulations.

“College graduation is a great accomplishment whenever it happens, but it is all the greater because you have achieved this milestone under unprecedented stress,” Partner said. “SUNY Potsdam is a unique place, and this is reflected in our alumni network. Our alumni are impressive, and we love to help each other… As you continue on your life’s journey, remember: ‘Once a member of the Potsdam family, always a member of the Potsdam family.'”

More infromation about the ceremony and SUNY POtsdam can be found on the college’s website.