December 19, 2019

SUNY Empire State College Celebrates First-Ever Winter Commencement

More than 1,700 Awards Conferred to Eligible Students

Commencement Speaker Former Governor David A. Paterson:
“SUNY Empire exhibits an exemplary sense of new thinking when it comes to education…”

Video and Photo Highlights Below


(ALBANY, New York – Dec. 18, 2019) During its first collegewide winter commencement this past Sunday at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center, SUNY Empire State College welcomed former New York State Governor David Paterson, who addressed graduates and guests. Paterson shared his own powerful story of perseverance, acknowledging those who supported and guided him throughout his educational pursuits, beginning on his first day of kindergarten through his days at Columbia University and Hofstra Law School.

Paterson’s personal story of resilience is a testament to the power of perseverance and education, a theme that resonated with SUNY Empire students. Graduates at this week’s ceremony ranged in age from 19 to 71 years of age. Eighty-five percent of graduates of SUNY Empire work part-time jobs, while 50 percent are employed full-time. Approximately half of the graduates are parents, and many are the first in their family to attend college.

SUNY Empire awarded two undergraduate certificates, 251 associate degrees, 1,257 bachelor's degrees, 65 graduate certificates and 14 master's degrees to 1,720 graduates. The first-ever collegewide winter commencement was held in response to students’ desire for more flexible commencement options to fit their busy lives.

“The beauty of SUNY Empire is that it is a reflection of the great diversity of this state, this nation, and beyond,” said President of SUNY Empire State College Jim Malatras. “We have graduates from every corner of New York State and each of our 62 counties—from the eastern-most beaches of Long Island to the bustling downtown of the City of Buffalo. And our reach extends far beyond to 24 other states, and 14 countries around the globe.”

 “SUNY Empire exhibits an exemplary sense of new thinking when it comes to education, but it actually mirrors where our society is,” said Governor Paterson. “Only 15 percent of college graduates attain careers in the area that they studied. So, if you’re not ready to follow a new discipline midlife, then you’re the one who’s nontraditional, everyone else is doing it.”

Paterson began his political career 1985 when he was elected to represent Harlem at the age of 31. In 2002, he was elected Minority Leader of the New York State Senate, becoming the first African-American and blind legislative leader in the state’s history. Paterson served as governor of New York from 2008 until 2010. During that time, he enacted legislation attaching severe criminal penalties to predatory lending, helped level the playing field for minority and women-owned businesses, and reduced New York’s fiscal deficit by nearly $40 billion. One of his greatest achievements was establishing a new budget process that has yielded on-time budgets since he left office.

To view highlights of SUNY Empire’s 2019 Winter Commencement, click here.

An online photo gallery can be viewed here

About SUNY Empire State College

SUNY Empire State College educates more than 17,000 students in person, online, and through a blend of both, at more than 30 locations in New York and at eight international sites worldwide. Together with one of SUNY Empire’s more than 1,300 faculty mentors, each student designs their own individualized pathway to a college degree that accommodates their schedule and awards credit for prior college-level learning. SUNY Empire awards more than 3,000 degrees annually and 94 percent of graduates stay in New York state. Today, more than 87,000 SUNY Empire alumni are entrepreneurs, veterans, and active members of the military, professional athletes, teachers, medical professionals, and leaders in their field, as well as in their communities. To learn more, visit and follow the college on social media @SUNYEmpire.