PLATTSBURGH — Presiding over his final commencement as president of SUNY Plattsburgh before retiring, John Ettling welcomed at-capacity crowds Saturday at morning and afternoon ceremonies for the Class of 2019.

Following graduates and faculty members who took their seats, Ettling followed the faculty marshals — Dr. Martha Frost, professor and chair, human development and family relations, in the morning ceremony and Richard Mikkelson, SUNY distinguished teaching professor of art, in the afternoon — and led the platform guests to their seats.

Dr. Koon Yan (Chris) Pak, a 1974 biology graduate whose company, Molecular Targeting Technologies focuses on the development of technologies for the treatment and diagnosis of human diseases, and Dr. Hassan Tetteh, Class of 1994 in biochemistry, a board-certified surgeon specializing in heart and lung transplantation, were each granted an honorary doctor of science degree from SUNY.

STUDENT SPEAKERS

Student speaker Andrea Hoffman, a registered nurse who came back to SUNY Plattsburgh in her 40s to earn her bachelors in nursing degree, addressed students graduating from the School of Education, Health and Human Services and the School of Business and Economics in the morning ceremony, and Ryan Chiasson, a political science major, addressed the students graduating in the afternoon from the School of Arts and Sciences.

Ettling then shook the hands of each SUNY Plattsburgh graduate for the last time. He retires at the end of this academic year, 15 years since taking on the presidency.

He thanked the graduates for choosing SUNY Plattsburgh.

“You had choices,” he said. “And you chose to come to Plattsburgh. For some of you, this is your only college commencement; for others, this may your first or second of several as you go on to other graduate programs. Many of your arrived here a few years ago without knowing what you wanted to study but understanding that a college education is the key to your success.

“When you leave today, we hope you’ve acquired the basic skills of reasoning, communication, problem-solving, ethical judgement and teamwork. These are very useful for almost any endeavor in this diverse and globally interconnected world. Some of your may well spend your career in the first job you get when you leave here; most of you will find that your careers as well as your life will take many twists and turns. We hope our student-centered approach to higher education pays off in the future,” he said.

'HOW PROUD I AM'

“We join with your parents, family, friends, girlfriends and boyfriends on this special occasion because we are proud of the many students who have graduated from this school, especially the first-generation students graduating here today. And at this moment, in this building, at this day, I want you to know how proud I am of your accomplishments. Congratulations.”

Essence Hightower, president of the Student Association, led the students in the official tassel change, moving it from right to left, over their hearts.

“No one said this would be easy, but together as Cardinals, it is time to leave this nest, spread our wings and soar onward,” she said. 

Dr. Ashley Gambino, a 2004 graduate and first vice president of the Plattsburgh Alumni Association, and Bruce Mante, Class of 1979, representative of the association, officially welcomed graduates into the association at the morning and afternoon ceremonies, respectively.

FINAL WORDS

Before the singing of the alma mater, Ettling took to the microphone to impart his last words to the graduates, saying he had recently read something written by Toni Bentley, former New York City ballet dancer and a prolific author.

“She said, ‘Discipline is not negotiable, grace is a consequence of humility, devotion to something greater than oneself is salvation, and impossible beauty exists.’ Look around. It’s there. Thank you."