SUNY Potsdam honors students at Master's Commencement Ceremony Saturday; Bachelor’s Commencement Ceremony today
Sunday, May 18, 2014 - 9:51 am

POTSDAM -- The State University of New York at Potsdam recognized 215 students at the college's ninth annual Master's Commencement Ceremony on Saturday, May 17.

SUNY Potsdam's Commencement celebration continues May 18 at 10:15 a.m., when the college honors 913 candidates for the bachelor's degree at the 2014 Bachelor's Commencement Ceremony in the Academic Quad.

Families and friends cheered in the Helen M. Hosmer Concert Hall at SUNY Potsdam's Crane School of Music as professors laid scarlet and blue cowls over the graduates' shoulders to signify their new academic degrees.

SUNY Potsdam Interim President Dr. Dennis L. Hefner congratulated the graduate students on the completion of their master's studies. It was his first and last Commencement at the College; he will soon return to retirement after leading the campus for the past year.

"For most graduates and their families, today's Commencement represents the culmination of many years of diligence and effort. It is truly a once-in-a-lifetime event, long to be remembered," Dr. Hefner said. "Over the past one or two years or more, you have dedicated yourselves to the intensive study of a specific field -- a field you have mastered, which is why the degree you will receive today is called a master's. You are a master of your specific discipline, and will be so recognized today."

College Council Chair June O'Neill thanked Hefner for his diligent and dedicated service to the institution over the past year, before congratulating the graduates.

"Commencements are very special times. They are the end, but also the beginning. We celebrate your accomplishments and also look forward to what you will do next," she said.

John S. O'Reilly '62, the retired executive vice president and senior editor for Alfred Music, was presented with an Honorary Doctor of Music degree at the ceremony. In his address to the graduates, O'Reilly reflected on the Crane connections that took him far in life. From his musical mentors, Robert Washburn and Arthur Frackenpohl, to his wife and fellow Crane graduate Judy, and finally to the classmate who became his co-worker at Alfred Music, Sandy Feldstein.

"You've all made long-lasting friendships here in Potsdam. Don't forget about those friends as you go your separate ways. Networking is an essential part of career building, and it starts with keeping in touch with your classmates and college professors," O'Reilly said.

Throughout his career first in music education and then in composition and publishing, O'Reilly kept his focus on the students. He shared how he got grudging permission from Samuel Barber to arrange the "Adagio for Strings"... for woodwinds. Later, he found himself traveling to Hollywood to arrange popular works by Neil Diamond for piano, band, orchestra and chorus.

But it was through his books, including "Yamaha Band Student" and "Accent on Achievement," that O'Reilly was able to reach 11 million music students worldwide. He and Judy have traveled the globe as he met with teachers and students to share educational methods -- and his work isn't complete; he will travel to China in the fall.

"I feel blessed to have been able to combine my love of music and teaching with an exciting business career. Most of you have wonderful educations and extensive teaching experience that make you excellent candidates for all sorts of careers. The digital age is opening up job opportunities that we couldn't have dreamed of just a few years ago," O'Reilly told the graduates. "The world is your oyster! Take advantage of opportunity and adventure when it presents itself. Believe in yourself and be passionate about your work. Think first, speak later, and always project a positive attitude, even in times of frustration."

The ceremony concluded with the conferring of Master of Arts, Master of Music, Master of Science in Education and Master of Science in Teaching degrees.

Families, friends and faculty members flooded into the lobby of the College's brand-new Performing Arts Center to congratulate the graduates following the ceremony.

To find out more about Commencement at SUNY Potsdam, visit