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Commencement 2009Commencement 2009
May 17, 2009

I'd like to say a few words to the graduates.  This is your final year at Ithaca College, and it was my first.  As the first class to graduate during my presidency, you will always have a special place in my heart.  Perhaps more importantly, you will always have a special place at IC.  You have made history here.

The baccalaureate class of 2009 in particular set some enviable records.  Your participation rate in the senior class gift project was higher than any graduating class has achieved since we began keeping records a decade ago.  Your involvement in campus events during your four years here -- but especially during your senior year -- suggests that this is a graduating class chock full of people with leadership qualities.  You will also be leaders with a conscience, as demonstrated by your deep involvement in community service projects.  You have all, undergraduate and graduate students alike, made a difference at Ithaca College.  I hope Ithaca College has made a difference in you.

We call today's ceremony a commencement, and of course the word commencement refers to a beginning.  Every spring, graduation speakers reflect on the irony that the celebration upon completion of a degree program is called commencement.  But of course every completion is also an initiation -- you walk across a threshold from one phase of your life to the next.  "In my end is my beginning," as T.S. Elliot once wrote.

I had a kind of commencement less than two weeks ago when my wife and I had our first child.  The birth of baby Liam marked the end of one phase of my life and the beginning of another, just as this commencement ceremony does for you.  And so, because I have 12 days of post commencement experience and you are just having your commencement today, I'd like to conclude with a few observations on how you will know if your commencement is going well.

If you look at the sky and the trees  and everything around you, and you fell as if you are seeing these things for the first time, then you are having a successful commencement.

If you find yourself intellectually and emotionally drawn to subjects that never held much interest for you before, then you are probably having a very good commencement.

If you find new meaning and deep value in all your relationships with other people, then you just might be having an excellent commencement.

If you realize that great things come in little packages, and that beauty is found in the smallest of details, then you are on track for a revelatory commencement.

If you find yourself getting less sleep but you still feel more alive than ever before, then congratulations.  You commencement is everything that a commencement can and should be.

I wish you each a wonderful and transformative commencement today, with many equally wonderful commencements to come throughout the rest of your lives.

Congratulations class of 2009.