SUNY Potsdam Prepares to Celebrate Class of 2018 at Commencement

Green Bronx Machine Founder and Innovative Educator Stephen Ritz to Speak to SUNY Potsdam Graduates at Commencement on May 19

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POTSDAM, NY (05/09/2018) The State University of New York at Potsdam will honor the Class of 2018, as hundreds of students earn their undergraduate and graduate degrees, during the College's Commencement Ceremony on Saturday, May 19. More than 750 bachelor's and master's graduates are set to cross the stage.

Commencement speaker

The innovative educator Stephen Ritz, founder of the Green Bronx Machine, will deliver the keynote address to the graduating class, and SUNY Potsdam will present him with an honorary doctorate during the ceremony.

"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. He is the author of the bestselling book, "The Power of a Plant: A Teacher's Odyssey to Grow Healthy Minds and Schools."

"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 been working to share his educational philosophy with faculty and students 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 school districts. He will continue this collaboration as he visits Potsdam for Commencement, meeting with graduates who have worked in WISER and with local K-12 educators and students.

Ceremony details

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.

During Commencement, SUNY Potsdam will recognize all students who have either earned their degree or are eligible to graduate between December 2017 and December 2018.

The College holds its Commencement Ceremony outside in the Academic Quad, rain or shine, unless there are extreme weather conditions. Guests are asked to dress appropriately for the weather, 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, in the Barrington Student Union Multi-Purpose Room.

For family and friends around the world, SUNY Potsdam will stream the Commencement ceremony live on the College's YouTube channel again this year. The link for the livestream, which will begin at 10 a.m. on May 19, will be available at

During Commencement, the College will also recognize the recipients of two awards. Lynne Boles '74, the president of the Potsdam College Foundation Board of Trustees and a former vice president for global advertising at Procter & Gamble, will be honored with the 2018 Roger B. Linden Distinguished Service Award. Preston C. Carlisle, a philanthropist and the founder of the Carlisle Law Firm, Ogdensburg, N.Y., will receive the 2018 Leadership Through Service Award.

Emergency weather plan

There is an emergency weather plan for the SUNY Potsdam Commencement ceremony, in the case of extreme conditions like lightning or freezing temperatures. Under the emergency plan, there would be two ceremonies, which would be held back-to-back, at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., in the Maxcy Hall Ice Arena.

Under the emergency plan, Ceremony A would be held at 10:15 a.m., and would recognize all master's graduates, as well as bachelor's graduates earning degrees in art, business administration, community health, criminal justice studies, exercise science, dance, music, sociology and theatre. All other graduating students would attend Ceremony B, to be held at 3 p.m., also in the Maxcy Hall Ice Arena.

Each graduate has been given four tickets for the emergency plan; all other guests are welcome to view the ceremonies via live video in the Maxcy Hall Jerry Welsh Gymnasium.

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