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Bernie Williams to Speak at SUNY Potsdam Commencement

Former NY Yankee and Award Winning Recording Artist
Former New York Yankee and Recording Artist Bernie Williams
Former New York Yankee and Recording Artist Bernie Williams(SUNY Potsdam)
Published: Apr. 5, 2022 at 11:17 AM EDT
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY)

The State University of New York at Potsdam will welcome former New York Yankee and award-winning recording artist Bernie Williams as the keynote speaker for its 2022 Commencement ceremony, on Saturday, May 21.

SUNY Potsdam honored Williams with an honorary doctorate in recognition of his lifetime achievements in 2019, and now the five-time All-Star and Latin Grammy nominee is set to speak to the graduates of the Class of 2022.

His visit will kick off with a special concert with the Bernie Williams Collective, presented by the Community Performance Series. The performance will be held on Friday, May 20 at 7:30 p.m., in the Helen M. Hosmer Concert Hall at The Crane School of Music. Tickets are on sale now at cpspotsdam.org.

“On behalf of the SUNY Potsdam community, it is our honor to welcome Bernie Williams for what will undoubtedly be an unforgettable concert and Commencement ceremony. We look forward to honoring him and the graduates of the Class of 2022,” said Officer-in-Charge Dr. Philip T. Neisser ‘79.

Growing up in Puerto Rico, Bernabe Williams Figueroa Jr. (Bernie Williams) discovered his love for baseball and music at roughly the same time, when at the age of eight he fell in love with the sounds of a flamenco guitar his merchant-marine father brought home from Spain, and also felt the same exhilaration when he first picked up a baseball bat. The young student-athlete quickly excelled in both pursuits, going on to attend the special performance arts school Escuela Libre de Musica at the age of 13, and becoming one of the most noted young athletes on the island, both as a track and field standout posting record times in the 400 meters, as well as one of Puerto Rico’s most sought-after young baseball prospects. Bernie was signed by the New York Yankees after high school in 1987. After working his way through the farm system, the switch-hitting Williams made his Major League debut with the Yankees in May 1991.

In his 16-year career patrolling centerfield for the New York Yankees, Bernie Williams was a four-time World Series Champion and a five-time All Star. Williams has more post-season RBIs to his credit than any other player in Major League history and his resume also boasts four Gold Glove awards, six American League pennants, the 1996 ALCS MVP award, and the 1998 American League batting title. Bernie is also among the Yankees’ all-time leaders in every major batting category, with his performance statistics often standing alongside such legends as Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio. On May 24, 2015, the Yankees retired Bernie’s uniform number 51 and a plaque was dedicated and placed in Monument Park in Yankee Stadium, cementing his legacy as an all-time Yankee great.

Throughout Williams’ years with the Yankees, his passion for music never waned, and the sound of his guitar would often be heard emanating from the clubhouse or during team flights. Whether acoustic or electric, a guitar was a constant presence in the star’s locker or equipment bag, and it was no surprise when he demonstrated how serious his musical pursuit was with the release of his first album, “The Journey Within” in 2003. The record featured fusions of jazz, rock and the tropical rhythms of Williams’ Latin heritage, and was met with both strong critical praise and instant chart success- reaching No. 3 on Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz Chart.

Williams raised his musical game even further with the release of his second album, “Moving Forward.” Featuring guest appearances by Bruce Springsteen, Jon Secada, Dave Koz, and an all-star cast of renowned studio musicians, “Moving Forward” debuted as Billboard’s No. 2 Contemporary Jazz album in the country and continued to hold that chart position for five straight weeks, and spawned two consecutive Billboard No. 1 singles, “Go For It” and “Ritmo de Otono.” The album was nominated for a Latin Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Album in 2009.

In 2011, Williams co-authored a book, “Rhythms of the Game: The Link Between Music and Athletic Performance,” along with Dave Gluck and Bob Thompson, featuring a foreword by Paul Simon. In fitting with his career change, he completed a Bachelor of Music degree in 2016 from the Manhattan School of Music, studying with his mentor, Garry Dial. On top of his athletic and musical careers, Williams has dedicated himself to philanthropy and charitable endeavors, raising funds and volunteering for Little Kids Rock, the Kids Need MORE Foundation and the National Association of Music Merchants Foundation, among others.

SUNY Potsdam’s 2022 Commencement ceremony will be held on Saturday, May 21 at 10:15 a.m. in the Academic Quad, as hundreds of undergraduate and graduate students cross the stage in the shadow of the Satterlee Hall clocktower to earn their bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

To learn more about Commencement at SUNY Potsdam, visit http://www.potsdam.edu/commencement.

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