2023 Undergraduate Commencement Remarks, May 20, 2023

Remarks by SUNY Geneseo President Denise A. Battles

One of the great joys afforded me as president is to travel the country to meet Geneseo’s impressive alumni—leaders in business, government, science, education, and the arts—who invariably seek me out to recount their experiences as students and how fundamental their collegiate education was in their lives. 

A few commonalities emerge from these Geneseo tales: the influence of a caring faculty or staff member who made them see the world in another way; the friends they made as first-year students, with whom they still keep in touch; and the life lessons learned in and beyond the classroom that they took with them into their occupations and communities.

On this day, degree in hand, you take the next step on your journey. Where you will go, what you will do, and the wonders you will achieve lay before you. You join the long line of distinguished and accomplished Geneseo alumni, individuals renowned for their skill and leadership in their fields and communities. I have little doubt that, as you take your place, you will rise to their challenge, to become tomorrow’s change agents and shapers of our future, to serve not only your families but your cities and countries as well. 

You’ve done well here. Most of you arrived in 2019 as fresh-faced high school graduates and now, in 2023, look back wondering where those years have gone. You survived a pandemic, got those assignments in on time, found a calling . . . or perhaps not yet, but you will. Most of all, you dedicated yourself to making the most of the honors experience and premier liberal arts education Geneseo offers, and you leave with the tools and knowledge to do great things. 

Some of you will immediately begin a graduate education in medicine, research, or education. Others will enter the workforce, beginning careers in business, the arts, teaching, and industries of all kinds. Many of you will set out across the country and overseas to make the world a better place through your time and energy. But no matter where you go, near or far, you will carry Geneseo with you, those moments spent staring at a glistening sunset over the Valley, laughing with friends on the College Green, and cheering the Knights as they vanquished another foe. 

The truth is that you will leave a part of you behind as you depart Geneseo. A bit of you will stay to greet the coming of spring when the snows recede and then, in the fall, welcome the next eager first-year class. You will still stroll down Main Street to peer in the shops and greet Emmeline, the village’s iconic bronze bear, still clinging to her pole. 

You see, Geneseo sticks. It doesn’t fall away when you leave.  It has become integral to who you are. Somewhere down deep, it sings like a siren, and each summer, alumni hear that call and come home for Reunion. Last year nearly 1,900 alumni converged on our village to reunite with old friends to reminisce, tell stories, and celebrate all that is Geneseo. 

I encourage you to listen to that faint siren’s song, the rustling of the breeze from the Valley carrying voices telling you to come back to find that magic once again. The College will be here, perched over the Genesee River, bustling with life and energy. We will be here waiting for you, and so will that part of you that never left.

As I said, Geneseo sticks.

I see before me tomorrow’s change makers and leaders, highly capable individuals who feel an obligation to give back and make the world a better place. You have the talent, drive, and perseverance to succeed. I have no doubt you will do great things.  

So, Class of 2023—I say again, well done. We cannot wait to hear what you will do in the future.