Speeches

Back to "Commencement Speeches"

Commencement 2002Commencement 2002
Ithaca College, May 19, 2002

Thank you, Andrew [Sachs, senior class president], for your words on behalf of the class of 2002. Thank you, also, to the senior class officers and your classmates for organizing and making this wonderful gift [of $20,363] to the College. The Ithaca College annual fund is a critical component of our giving program, and we appreciate your generous support and your philanthropic spirit.

I enjoyed attending Senior Week activities, including the wonderful Commencement Eve Concert and the spectacular fireworks last evening. I also enjoyed casual conversations with seniors reminiscing about their four years here. Senior Week provides a culmination to your years at Ithaca College and provides the opportunity to recognize and appreciate your IC friendships. Many of the close friendships you developed while you were here will last a lifetime. This is a unique aspect of the college experience, and I encourage you to stay in touch with one another in the years to come.

Before I continue with my remarks for the graduates, I want to recognize a member of the Ithaca College Board of Trustees who will conclude her term as a trustee today: Kristina Pervi, student trustee. Kristina has done excellent work carrying out her trustee responsibilities. Thank you, Kristina, for your fine service and your commitment to Ithaca College. I also want to thank Chairman [William] Haines and Vice Chairman [Larry] Alleva, as well as all trustees, for your dedicated and loyal service to the College during this past year. It has been a pleasure working with you.

Now back to you, our honored graduates. It was just a few short years ago that you joined the Ithaca College community. When you joined this community, all members of the College family shared an excitement for the possibilities and opportunities available here for you. At your first fall Convocation I shared my hopes and dreams for you at IC. During the intervening years, and shaped by a multitude of experiences, you have become the individuals you are today. Still, you are different in many ways from whom you were when you arrived on campus.

Regardless of what program or discipline you studied, I hope you have composed lifetime habits that will continue to serve you well. Ithaca College's liberal arts tradition has provided you with critical thinking and reasoning skills, intellectual breadth, and a capacity to deal with an infinite range of information and knowledge -- including that yet to be discovered.

Whether you realize it or not, you have had the privilege during your time here to share and experience divergent perspectives and points of view. This is truly a unique aspect of the academy (that is to say, "the College"). Unfortunately, our world does not always reflect nor appreciate this. Nevertheless, you have an opportunity to serve as an inspiration for critical, thoughtful, and civil dialogue. You also have the responsibility, as an educated citizen, to continue to be informed, to continue to share your thoughts, to continue to invite and listen to the perspectives of others -- even when those differ from your own -- and to find your unique and special role in making this world a better place for persons and peoples.

This morning each of you was given a special medallion by members of the Ithaca College Alumni Association. This tradition of the presentation of medallions by our alumni is an important symbolic gesture. Today you are welcomed into the ranks of Ithaca College alumni. Through your aptitude and diligence, you have earned your place here. We celebrate that accomplishment today. Your new role as an alumnus includes several specific responsibilities:

  • First, carry the knowledge and skills learned at Ithaca College into the world to improve the welfare of humankind by whatever means you are able.
     
  • Second, let others know, by your example, of the commitment to excellence that is the hallmark of Ithaca College.
     
  • Third, support your fellow alumni and current students through the many opportunities available here on campus and those sponsored by our alumni clubs across the country.
     
  • Fourth, and finally, support the next generation of scholars at Ithaca College by volunteering to offer guidance and opportunities to our young people. We look forward to all of your contributions to the well-being of future students, just as past students contributed to the quality to your IC experience.

We are proud of Ithaca College graduates -- the contributions they make and the successes they achieve. I am very confident that you will continue in this long-standing tradition of excellence.

On one side of your medallions is the official College seal, recognizing the history, tradition, and mission of the College. While this side of the medallion has remained virtually constant for every graduate since we began this tradition actually, for the centennial year the wording in the circle was different, the other side includes a quotation that is unique to your class.

This year the quotation is from Composing a Life by Mary Catherine Bateson. For family and friends in the audience, it reads: "Composing a life involves a continual reimagining of the future." These words were part of the Convocation address I delivered in August 1998. I hope that many of you remember the words of that address. On that special day I shared some thoughts with you about my hopes for your years at IC. You may recall that I related life to that of a journey -- just as Bateson had done in her book.

In thinking about today's ceremony, I thought it fitting to return to some of Bateson's work and state, again, the simple, powerful thoughts of this author.

The composing of your life is a never-ending process. Important moments such as today are appropriate times to pause and look back as you continue to dream and plan for your future. Today, as you prepare to close one chapter of your life and begin another, I offer these thoughts and challenges:

  • Continue to learn from your experiences and apply what you have learned at Ithaca. Although each step we take is a measure of our success, it is important to realize that it is only one step of many in one's life journey.
     
  • Whether you are looking back or ahead, do not be afraid to reevaluate or reimagine your course and the life you wish to compose.
     
  • Have faith in your abilities, believe in your dreams, and have confidence in those who will support you when you need it the most.

As you leave Ithaca, know that each of you, in your own way, has the ability and potential to make a positive contribution to the world that awaits you. Through your accomplishments here, you have shown that you have the motivation and the commitment to do so. We -- the faculty, staff, and administration of Ithaca College -- have worked to equip you with a strong foundation for your future professional and personal lives.

Put it all to good use. Never stop dreaming about how your knowledge, your continuing ability to grow and to learn, and your sense of responsibility to society can impact your family, your community, your state, and our world.

World events of this past year have made us aware, perhaps for the first time, that the world is a volatile and fractured place -- a place very much in need of powerful hope and enlightened leadership. I hope your Ithaca College education has exposed you to ideas and realities beyond those familiar to you when you arrived here. You leave IC at a critical time in our world's history. You leave today with the expectation and the capacity to develop into leaders of tomorrow. Each of you will exercise that leadership in different ways and in different milieus; however, each of you has an important role to play in the years ahead. I implore you to take up the challenge to provide hope and leadership. We have confidence in your ability to do so and to make a difference.

Before I conclude today, I ask each graduate to please stand, turn around, and express your appreciation to your parents, grandparents, families, and friends for their support of your Ithaca College education. Your accomplishments are the reflections of their dreams, their sacrifices, and their support.

As we draw this ceremony to a close, thank you for choosing Ithaca College. During your years as students here, you have enriched our community through your presence, your unpredictability, and your inherent lovableness.

On behalf of the entire Ithaca College community, I wish you well in all that lies ahead. We will miss you! And in the words of Garrison Keillor from that famous radio show A Prairie Home Companion, "Be well, do good work, and keep in touch!"

Best wishes and congratulations to each one of you!