SUNY Potsdam hands out 751 degrees amid sun, smiles, cheers; inventor of Sharklet addresses grads
Monday, May 21, 2012 - 6:35 am

POTSDAM -- The Academic Quad was alive with sunshine, smiles and cheers, as SUNY Potsdam handed out 751 degrees to undergraduates at the 2012 Bachelor's Commencement Ceremony Sunday.

Anthony B. Brennan '75, inventor of Sharklet and an endowed professor of materials science and engineering at the University of Florida, was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Science degree in recognition of his ingenuity, enterprise and generosity to his alma mater.

Brennan shared how he and his wife Kathy, spent their first year as poor newlyweds while he finished his degree at SUNY Potsdam -- and that despite their trials, they both still look back fondly on their time in Potsdam.

He thanked two of his most inspirational professors who taught him as an undergraduate, Paul Merritt and Scott McRobbie. The Natural Bridge, native also shared his background in science, which took an untraditional path to success and discovery.

"By studying how and why cells attach to various surfaces, I developed a product that is a bioinspired pattern that imitates the denticles or teeth-like scales of shark skin. So, what does this mean to all of you?" Brennan asked.

"At present time, my company is studying Sharklet's ability to reduce the transfer of bacteria between people and surfaces in hospitals. We hope to be testing our Foley urinary catheters in clinics by the end of this year in Europe and Canada. In fact, we are in discussions with Potsdam to make our product available for use in high-touch areas to reduce the spread of germs and bacteria."

Brennan encouraged students to follow their passions with dedication, and focus on the task at hand.

"Be confident in your abilities. Your degree represents far more than the completion of the required courses. It symbolizes your potential and opportunity to succeed. Success, however, depends upon you and how you use the knowledge gained here," Brennan said.

"And remember, it doesn't matter which road you take. What matters is the impact the journey has on you and what you do with it along the way. Pay attention to your journey."

SUNY Potsdam Pres. John F. Schwaller listed off accomplishments that the graduating students had pulled off -- and then told them about some amazing things their fellow alumni have achieved as well.

"As I look around and see those of us in the stage party right now -- alumni, faculty, three remarkable students and distinguished members of the College's leadership -- while we may have some fancy robes, colorful hoods, funny hats and bling up here, we are not the main attraction. The stars of today's ceremony are you, the 750-some graduates of the Class of 2012," Dr. Schwaller said.

"As Potsdam nears the close of her second century, as our newest alumni, you will take the lead in shaping her third century. I can't wait to see what's in store."

SUNY Trustee Kaitlyn Beachner '08, the outgoing president of the SUNY Student Assembly and the current student representative on the SUNY Board of Trustees, returned to her alma mater to join the stage party, just four years after she spoke at her own Commencement as the graduating Student Government Association president.

She bestowed Dr. Brennan with his honorary degree.

Academic honoree Renee Krusper, who is graduating with a 4.0 GPA and degrees in psychology and English and a minor in human services, was the first student to speak to her fellow graduates. She asked them to remember to put the most important things -- loved ones, passions and their health -- first in their lives, and always save time for a cup of coffee with a friend.

Fellow academic honoree Tyler Thomas also is graduating with a perfect grade point average with a degree in music education and a minor in jazz studies. He spoke about how overwhelmed he was when considering the immense achievements of past Crane School of Music students and professors, but eventually realized that he could also achieve great things if he put his mind to it.

"Great traditions of excellence are not borne aloft by some unseen hand of fate, but rather on the efforts and abilities of each generation," he said.

"Someday years hence, you can say that you were there at the dawn of our own renaissance, in those exciting times when we realized our own great potential and seized our destiny."

Outgoing Student Government Association President Sam McCaffrey, who is earning dual degrees in politics and American literature, joked with his classmates that they must be glad to put off their job search or graduate schoolwork for a few more hours.

"But seriously, the all-nighters, the early mornings and the small fortune we spent on energy drinks have all led to this moment. We have succeeded and we should be proud," McCaffrey said.

"I know that after we, being Potsdam Bears, are done hibernating until the job market has turned around, will become the leaders, the decision makers and the success stories that we have proven ourselves capable of being."

Jeff Washburn '79, President of the SUNY Potsdam Alumni Association, welcomed the graduates into the ranks of the College's 38,000 graduates worldwide.

Dr. Schwaller continued the festivities by honoring Dr. Stephen D. Immerman '75, the President of the Potsdam College Foundation Board of Trustees and the President of the Montserrat College of Art, with the 2012 Roger B. Linden Distinguished Service Award.

He also recognized the Stewart's Foundation as the recipient of the 2012 Leadership Through Service Award.

The ceremony concluded with the conferring of baccalaureate degrees to 751 students, including Bachelor of Music, Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Fine Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees.