POTSDAM -- With the strains of the organ to lead them, more than 170 graduate students filed into a lit-up concert hall with hoods in hand at the seventh annual SUNY Potsdam Master's Commencement Ceremony Saturday in Hosmer Hall.
Families and friends cheered, and professors laid scarlet and blue hoods over the graduates' shoulders to signify their new academic degrees.
Keynote speaker Dr. Galen K. Pletcher, Dean Emeritus of SUNY Potsdam's School of Arts and Sciences, invited graduates to consider with him the mystery of the meaning of life. As a professor emeritus of the College's Department of Philosophy, that's something that Dr. Pletcher has spent many years doing.
"I don't believe that there is a single answer to the question of life's meaning. People who say what I just said -- that there is no one single answer -- often follow this by saying that we make our own meaning. I don't believe that's quite true, either. It's not entirely up to us," he said. "But there is truth to the claim that how we live our lives can affect our sense of life's meaning."
Pletcher, who retired in 2010 after serving as Dean for 16 years, challenged the master's graduates to live their lives so that they feel they would gladly live it again. He asked the students to seek purpose, commitment, moral value, hope, autonomy, happiness and connection with others.
Pletcher pointed out that consciously taking control of our own thoughts and deeds, no matter how small, can add to the meaning of our lives.
"Purposes don't have to be cosmic to count as ordering your life. On Monday, I painted the porch. And I regularly take out the garbage," he said. "A large number of the elements necessary to achieve a life with meaning are at least partially within your control. Always be alert for the ways that you yourself can make your life more meaningful. Do not wait -- do not wait -- for external circumstances to give you meaning and make you happy. Do it yourself."
SUNY Potsdam Pres. John F. Schwaller marveled at the many achievements already behind the Class of 2012, and the many undoubtedly ahead.
"Our master's alumni represent an incredible diversity of careers. They are CEOs, performers, artists, local business owners, innovators, world travelers, veterans, philanthropists and life-changing teachers -- and education is at the root of that. Notice that our graduate alumni are not all teachers, but they are all educators in one way or another. Like them, you will end up being innovators because of your education background. Put simply, like you, they are amazing," he said.
"You have me on the edge of my seat." The ceremony concluded with the conferring of 173 Master of Arts, Master of Music, Master of Science in Education and Master of Science in Teaching degrees. Families, friends and faculty members streamed out into the bright sunshine to congratulate the graduates at a reception following the ceremony on the Crane Plaza.
SUNY Potsdam's Commencement celebration continues this morning when the College awards degrees to approximately 750 undergraduates at the 2012 Bachelor's Commencement Ceremony in the Academic Quad.
To read the Commencement programs from this year's celebrations at SUNY Potsdam, visit www.potsdam.edu/academics/commencement.