Plymouth State celebrates grads: ‘You have done the impossible during impossible times’

Approximately 700 students were honored during Plymouth State University’s 153rd undergraduate commencement on Saturday, May 11. Courtesy Photo

PLYMOUTH, NH – Plymouth State University (PSU) celebrated its 153rd undergraduate commencement on Saturday, May 11, at the Bank of New Hampshire Field House of the Active Living, Learning, and Wellness (ALLWell) North Building on the PSU campus. A total of approximately 700 students were honored during the ceremony. Graduate and doctorate degrees were awarded in a separate ceremony on Friday evening, May 10, 2024.

“Many of you joined us in the midst of the pandemic, adapted through times of great change and have grown immensely inside and outside the classroom to be here today,” Plymouth State University President Donald L. Birx, Ph.D., told ceremony participants. “You have proven yourselves resilient, caring and strong and can take on anything, never doubt that, ever. You have done the impossible during impossible times. You’ve kept and developed a sense of fun, community and commitment through it all.”
Chris Steffanci, PSU alumnus and president and CEO of Columbia Distributing, one of the largest malt beverage distributors in the United States, delivered the keynote address. Steffanci reflected on the impact of his experience at PSU, particularly the meaningful relationships he formed with classmates and faculty members.
“As I ventured into my career, I quickly realized that the relationships I cultivated at Plymouth State were just the beginning,” Steffanci said. “I discovered that the true measure of success isn’t solely financial prosperity, but rather the legacy we leave behind—a legacy built on kindness, empathy and integrity. In a world often driven by self-interest and profit margins, it’s our connections and the human touch that matter. So, as you embark on your own journey, remember the power of generosity, both in fostering meaningful connections and in leaving a lasting impact on those around you.”
Steffanci continued by encouraging the audience to pursue their passions, cultivate lasting relationships with everyone they encounter and maintain their connection within the Plymouth State University community.
“You have proven yourselves resilient, caring and strong and can take on anything, never doubt that, ever,” Plymouth State University President Donald Birx told graduates during the May 11 commencement. Courtesy Photo

“Boy, it has been one hell of a journey,” said Devonte Gilmore of South Ryegate, Vermont, student body president, Class of 2024. “We persisted and went on to make so many more memories together. Learning is everywhere in all that we do. Most importantly learning is within us. Keep that willingness to learn from not only your successes and those around you but also your failures.”

Nicole Reynolds of Framingham, Massachusetts, student body vice president, Class of 2024, added “No matter the circumstances, we’ve persevered, driven not only by the desire for success but also by the unwavering belief in ourselves. So, continue to drive towards your next destination. Life will inevitably have detours. But the only impossible journey is the one you never begin.”
The university awarded Ryan Chadwick, an entrepreneur, restaurateur and member of PSU’s Class of 2000 who frequently shares his business acumen with PSU students, an honorary Doctor of Business degree during the undergraduate commencement ceremony.
Nearly 125 graduate students participated in a graduate ceremony on the previous evening, Friday, May 10Director of Education at the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests and PSU alumnus Dave Anderson addressed master’s and doctoral degree recipients at the ceremony.
“You are the PSU story,” Anderson said. “Shaping the future, leading and teaching future generations of Granite Staters. The journey began right here – on this campus – in this extraordinary community. Plymouth State University is the gateway to the White Mountains – literally and figuratively – not just the place, but the experience of the place. The people and the place are inextricably linked.”
The university awarded Anderson its Granite State Award for his contributions to the state of New Hampshire and his commitment to educating others on issues affecting agriculture and forestry in New Hampshire.

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