Skip to main content

Undergraduate Commencement 2017

Remarks by President Denise A. Battles, May 13, 2017

These graduates and other students we have honored on various occasions in the past few weeks symbolize the excellence that we seek to foster at this college.  However, they are only a few examples of the ways in which the class of 2017 has made its mark here at Geneseo.  Before we formally grant you your degrees, I would like to address a few personal words to all members of the class.

The word “commencement” connotes a culminating event but also - paradoxically, in keeping with the word “commence” - a beginning. You, the Class of 2017, will leave this ceremony and set out on a variety of disparate paths to your futures. Many of you will continue your educations at some of the finest graduate schools in the country; others will head overseas to teach or participate in projects with the Peace Corps, NGOs and the US State Department. Some will spread out across the country to give of their time and talents in schools and communities with organizations like AmeriCorps and Teach for America. And others of you will begin your working careers and join the ranks of Geneseo graduates who are standouts in business and industry, education, research, health and human services, fine and performing arts, and government, across countless fields.

What you share with those predecessors is the distinction of being a Geneseo graduate, a label that carries with it a reputation; our alumni are renowned for intelligence, innovation, dedication, and leadership. They are change agents, difference makers, and those destined for big things. I expect no less from you. I look across the assembled Class of 2017, and see bright and enthusiastic men and women who will lead by example, foster inclusivity, continue their dedication to service in their communities, and live the values fostered by one of the finest public liberal arts institutions in this country.  A Geneseo degree has heft, weight, and respect earned through hard work, perseverance, and attention to detail. Members of the Geneseo Class of 2017 will be leaders who will carry our nation forward into the future through your intelligence, drive, and generosity.   

Tomorrow and in days to come, the orange-red dawn will break over the Genesee Valley. The villagers on Main Street will open their shops to greet the new day. Faculty and staff will walk to their offices past the Seuss Spruce in the Sturges Quad as the squirrels scour the campus’ beautiful grounds. All of Geneseo will come to life but will seem a little empty. What will be missing is you, the Class of 2017. However, the memories of what you accomplished here will linger. Allow me to outline a few.

In the past four years, SUNY Geneseo held some of the nation’s most successful Relay for Life collegiate events, and the largest in New York, raising close to $650,000 for the American Cancer Society.  For the past two years, we have been ranked in the top 25 college events nationally.

Just this year, Geneseo students were awarded a record-breaking 19 nationally and internationally competitive fellowships and scholarships, including prestigious Fulbright, Goldwater, and National Science Foundation Graduate honors.

SUNY Geneseo continues to be ranked nationally for its academic strength, undergraduate research, talented students, and outstanding reputation for excellence in publications such as US News & World Report, Princeton Review, and Fiske.

Last month at the annual GREAT Day event, we saw a record 1,024 students present their research, scholarly, and/or creative work, with many of those presenters being among you, the Class of 2017. 

We enhanced our relationship with Letchworth State Park to launch the Humphrey Nature Center. The partnership has augmented the opportunities for hands-on educational experiences and research by our students and faculty, opportunities many of you chose to pursue.

In the last four years of intercollegiate athletics, the Class has celebrated five NCAA individual national champions, 27 SUNYAC championships, 3 SUNYAC Commissioner Cups, the highest-ever Learfield Sports Director’s Cup standings, and witnessed the opening of a state of the art College Stadium for our soccer, lacrosse, and field hockey teams.

This year approximately 4,400 Geneseo students contributed 205,000 community service hours - equal to 1,220 weeks of round-the-clock volunteering - an annual effort that has consistently earned the College a place on the President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll. Also during your tenure, because of your commitment to service, the College earned the Community Engagement designation by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

For the third straight year, Geneseo is ranked among the top 20 medium-sized schools for producing Peace Corps volunteers.  That achievement is all the more impressive since “medium-sized” is defined as colleges and universities with 5,000 to 15,000 undergraduate students, meaning most of those institutions have enrollments far larger than Geneseo. 

And finally, Geneseo and Livingston CARES marked 10 years of volunteerism in Biloxi, Mississippi, where hundreds of our students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members have provided relief and recovery efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.  I know that many of you were among those volunteers, forgoing your winter or spring breaks in service to others.  In recognition of that commitment, last year Livingston CARES was awarded a resolution of thanks from the Harrison County Board of Supervisors.

You, the Class of 2017, have done much in your time here at Geneseo, coming together to celebrate the triumphs, and at times console each other in sorrow, but through it all you have remained One Knight, and become a class of distinction. And we who are assembled here--faculty and staff; members of the community and alumni; family and friends---applaud your accomplishments and cannot wait to see what you will do next. On this day and every other since my first day on the job, I feel honored to be the President of Geneseo. The Class of 2017 has much to be proud of. So, before you “commence” on your journeys into tomorrow, I will close by simply saying to all of you….Well done.