Green Bronx Machine Founder Stephen Ritz to Speak at SUNY Potsdam Commencement

The State University of New York at Potsdam to Present Innovative Educator Stephen Ritz with Honorary Doctorate at 2018 Commencement

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Innovative educator Stephen Ritz, the founder of the Green Bronx Machine, will be the keynote speaker at SUNY Potsdam’s 2018 Commencement Ceremony.

POTSDAM, NY (03/30/2018) (readMedia)-- The State University of New York at Potsdam will honor innovative educator Stephen Ritz, founder of the "Green Bronx Machine," with an honorary doctorate at the College's 2018 Commencement ceremony.

SUNY Potsdam is proud to welcome Ritz, the author of the bestselling book, "The Power of a Plant: A Teacher's Odyssey to Grow Healthy Minds and Schools," as its Commencement speaker this year. The award-winning author, educator, innovator and urban farmer will share insights from his life and career with graduates in the Class of 2018.

"It is our honor to welcome Stephen Ritz as our Commencement speaker and honorary degree recipient this year. Stephen's innovative approach to applied learning, science education and sustainability has transformed lives and revitalized communities. We look forward to honoring him and the graduates of the SUNY Potsdam Class of 2018," said President Dr. Kristin G. Esterberg.

Ritz has gained international acclaim for integrating education and urban farming at CS55 in the South Bronx -- a school located in the poorest congressional district in the country. Using technology like aeroponics and hydroponics, his extended student and community family has grown more than 60,000 pounds of vegetables both indoors and outdoors in the South Bronx, while generating extraordinary academic performance, including improved scores on state science exams and drastic reductions in behavioral incidents and out-of-class time. The model became the foundation for his non-profit organization, Green Bronx Machine, which is now recognized as a successful educational model worldwide.

"I am humbled to be honored by SUNY Potsdam and most importantly, thrilled about our work together to grow the next generation of students, teachers and communities across our city, state and nation, while growing food, jobs and opportunities for all," Ritz said. "This is the honor of a lifetime. That SUNY Potsdam would choose to celebrate the work that my students and I have done together and incorporate the Green Bronx Machine curriculum, is proof that together, we can grow something greater and make epic happen! SI SE PUEDE!"

Ritz has also shared his educational philosophy with faculty and staff from SUNY Potsdam, and its Wagner Institute for Sustainability and Ecological Research, which is striving to utilize green education and indoor agriculture to engage both college students (many of whom are future educators themselves), as well as partner teachers at area K-12 school districts. He met with SUNY Potsdam faculty in the summer of 2017 and again in the fall, when he traveled to Potsdam to lead an educational workshop and install nine Tower Gardens on campus and in the WISER Greenhouse. The systems are able to grow plants indoors, in triple the speed and also produce greater yields, compared to traditional gardening, while also utilizing less water and taking up less space. SUNY Potsdam's new WISER Greenhouse is taking advantage of this technology to enhance its hands-on learning opportunities and to add to the locally-sourced produce that is used on campus by PACES Dining Services.

To date, Ritz's work has been featured in Forbes, Fast Company, The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today, and on ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, FOX, TNT, Disney and NPR. His TEDx talk boasts nearly 1.2 million views, and he was featured in the film adaptation of Michael Pollan's best-selling book, "In Defense of Food."

SUNY Potsdam's 2018 Commencement Ceremony will be held on Saturday, May 19 at 10:15 a.m. in the Academic Quad. Hundreds of undergraduate and graduate students will cross the stage in the shadow of the Satterlee Hall clocktower to earn their bachelor's and master's degrees.

To learn more about Commencement at SUNY Potsdam, visit

About SUNY Potsdam:

Founded in 1816, The State University of New York at Potsdam is one of America's first 50 colleges -- and the oldest institution within SUNY. Now in its third century, SUNY Potsdam is distinguished by a legacy of pioneering programs and educational excellence. The College currently enrolls approximately 3,600 undergraduate and graduate students. Home to the world-renowned Crane School of Music, SUNY Potsdam is known for its challenging liberal arts and sciences core, distinction in teacher training and culture of creativity. To learn more, visit