SUNY Potsdam Announces 2017 Commencement Ceremony

Former MLB Pitcher Jim "Ace" Deshaies to Provide Keynote Address and Leadership Through Service Award to be Presented to Sam and Carmela Spagnolo

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Sam Spagnolo, right, stands with New York State Senator Joseph Griffo after receiving a Liberty Medal in 2015 for his lifetime of service to the people of St. Lawrence County.

POTSDAM, NY (04/20/2017) (readMedia)-- SUNY Potsdam is proud to announce that former Major League Baseball Pitcher and Massena native Jim "Ace" Deshaies, now a TV analyst for the Chicago Cubs, will provide the keynote address to more than 800 undergraduate and graduate students on Saturday, May 20, 2017 in the Academic Quad. Deshaies, who was selected by the New York Yankees in the 1982 draft and played for 12 years in the big leagues, will be able to share a lifetime of experiences with SUNY Potsdam's 2017 graduating class.

Potsdam entrepreneurs Sam and Carmela Spagnolo will receive the Leadership Through Service Award, one of the College's highest honors, during this year's Commencement Ceremony. The Spagnolos and their entire family operate Sergi's Italian Restaurant, a Potsdam fixture that has been serving Italian cuisine for the past 50 years. SUNY Potsdam established the Leadership Through Service Award to honor outstanding individuals and organizations that have demonstrated a commitment of service to the Potsdam community. The award is given annually at Commencement to acknowledge individuals who demonstrate a special commitment to the betterment of the North Country through dedicated service.

The College will hold its combined Bachelor's and Master's Commencement Ceremony outside in the Academic Quad starting at 10:15 a.m., rain or shine. Guests are asked to dress appropriately for the weather conditions and bring umbrellas, blankets or sunscreen if needed. There will be an option for guests who are uncomfortable with weather conditions to watch the ceremony live on a large screen inside the Barrington Student Union. If extreme weather such as lightning, freezing temperatures, etc. becomes an issue, a decision to move the Commencement Ceremony inside will be made no later than 6 a.m. on Saturday. If the emergency plan is implemented, an email will be sent to all graduates, and an announcement will be made on local radio stations and at

To learn more about Commencement at SUNY Potsdam, visit

About the keynote speaker:

Massena native Jim "Ace" Deshaies has been a TV analyst for the Chicago Cubs since 2013. He spent the previous 16 seasons in the same role with the Houston Astros. He is a recipient of a 2010 Lone Star Emmy for Broadcast Excellence. Deshaies was selected by the Yankees in the 1982 draft out of LeMoyne College in Syracuse, N.Y., and played 12 years in the big leagues.

He compiled an 84-95 record with a 4.14 ERA, 951 strikeouts and 575 walks in 257 games with the Yankees (1984), Astros (1985-91), Padres (1992), Twins (1993, 1994), Giants (1993) and Phillies (1995). He played on the Astros 1986 West Division championship team, setting a club rookie record with 12 wins while finishing seventh in the NL Rookie of the Year balloting. On Sept. 23, 1986, he set a modern-day Major League record against the Dodgers, striking out the first eight batters he faced in the start. Deshaies and his wife, Lori, have three daughters: Libby, Molly and Kelly.

About the Award Recipients:

Sam and Carmela Spagnolo have been feeding people in Potsdam, New York with their family for the past 50 years. Sam married Carmela on June 14, 1959 in Italy. Soon after, they moved to the north country and opened a barber shop in Potsdam at what is now the Roxy Theatre. In 1966, they opened Sergi's Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria along with Sam's sister, Maria and her husband in Canton. One year later Sam and Carmela opened another Sergi's Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria in Potsdam. They have hosted dozens of organizations in his restaurant, and have provided countless pizzas and Italian dishes to people within the community. Throughout five decades in business, they have given opportunities to hundreds of St. Lawrence County residents. They currently employ approximately 20 people, and have been recognized by several organizations, including the Potsdam Chamber of Commerce, for their continued excellence.

Sam is the recipient of the Gertie LaBaff Community Service Award and was inducted into the Potsdam Central School Athletic Hall of Fame in 2007. On the occasion of Sam and Carmela's 50th Wedding Anniversary in 2009, Canton-Potsdam Hospital dedicated its physician's lounge in their honor. A longtime owner of racehorses, Sam's colts have raced in several states across the Northeast and in Canada. One of his horses, Dear Star, was a World Champion in 1979. Sam and Carmela have two children, Lisa and Frank, and four grandchildren.

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 4,000 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