SUNY Canton & Potsdam postponing 2020 commencement ceremonies
Friday, March 27, 2020 - 5:44 pm

SUNY Potsdam and SUNY Canton will both postpone 2020 commencement ceremonies.

Canton’s was slated for May 9 in the Roos House.

Potsdam’s had been scheduled for Saturday, May 23, in the Academic Quad.

SUNY Canton Statement

The decision was made as the latest in a series of college-wide efforts to ensure the safety of the extended college community during the ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

"We recognize that many of you and your families are looking forward to celebrating your tremendous accomplishments at SUNY Canton by participating in your Commencement Ceremony," said SUNY Canton President Zvi Szafran in a message to all graduating seniors. "We remain committed to holding a live Commencement on campus as soon as it is safe to do so."

Szafran sent a survey to students to seek input on future dates to hold a live ceremony, with options for holding the event either in mid-summer, early fall or next year in May 2021.

The college remains open, but in a very limited capacity to help slow the spread of COVID-19. All classes are being offered remotely. There are just over 100 students living on campus, and the remainder have made alternative living arrangements for the semester. Only essential employees are on campus to maintain business continuity and to clean.

Commencement typically attracts more than 3,000 people to campus. The area's four colleges stagger their ceremonies to accommodate graduates' families from each school. SUNY Canton will continue to work with SUNY Potsdam, St. Lawrence University and Clarkson University to arrange a new date for its ceremony.

SUNY Canton's Honors Convocation celebration and the Specialty Student Awards Ceremony will be held virtually this year. Both of the Nurses' Pinning Ceremonies will be rescheduled for a later date. The college will issue further information about those events in the future.

SUNY Potsdam Statement

Due to the new state and federal restrictions on non-essential travel and social distancing guidelines, SUNY Potsdam must postpone the traditional commencement ceremony until the event is safe to hold.

This year marks SUNY Potsdam's 200th commencement, since the College's founding in 1816. Commencement is held outdoors in the Academic Quad, and typically attracts up to 5,000 people, including the graduates, faculty, staff, families and friends.

"It is with great sadness, but a deep sense of responsibility, that we postpone our Commencement ceremony as originally scheduled. Commencement is the highlight of the academic year, and I take such joy in seeing our graduates cross the stage. However, in order to protect the health of our campus and community, we must take this step. Rest assured, we have every intention of honoring the Class of 2020, and very much look forward to doing so," said President Dr. Kristin G. Esterberg.

SUNY Potsdam's Commencement Committee has already met to discuss possible options for alternate celebrations. The College is surveying graduates to ask their preferences for a rescheduled ceremony, as well as virtual/distance celebrations as the semester ends.

SUNY Potsdam is in contact with its partners at the Associated Colleges of the St. Lawrence Valley, as it considers possible dates for rescheduling.

The college has already decided to move its annual honors convocations and award ceremonies for departments and Schools to an online format this semester.

Following new directives from President Trump and Governor Cuomo limiting gatherings and closing certain facilities, SUNY Potsdam has had to restrict access to much of campus, and cancel or postpone most events and activities for the rest of the Spring 2020 semester. All college-sponsored or third party events and activities that would involve in-person gatherings of 10 people or more have been canceled or will be reworked for a virtual format.

Additionally, due to the new social spacing directives and the staffing limitations the College is faced with, SUNY Potsdam has also had to restrict access to most campus buildings, out of safety and staffing concerns. Most campus buildings will remain restricted to the public until further notice.

To keep up with the latest updates on SUNY Potsdam's response to COVID-19, visit