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Commencement 2001Commencement 2001
Ithaca College, May 19, 2001

Thank you very much, Meg [Booze, senior class president], for your words on behalf of the class of 2001. Thank you also to the senior class officers and your classmates for organizing and making this wonderful gift [of $13,793] to the College. The Ithaca College annual fund is a critical component of our giving program and we appreciate your generous support.

I enjoyed attending several Senior Week events, including a wonderful Commencement Eve Concert and the spectacular fireworks last evening. These and other Senior Week events provided a happy culmination to your years at Ithaca College and a celebration of your IC friendships. You may not know this now, but many of the close friendships you developed while you were here will last for 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 getting into my remarks for you, graduates, it gives me great pleasure to recognize members of the Ithaca College Board of Trustees who will conclude their terms today: staff trustee Karen Johnson, faculty trustee Elaine Leeder, Carol Serling, and David Sass. These individuals have done excellent work carrying out their trustee responsibilities. I thank them for their service and commitment to the College. I also thank Chairman [Herman] Muller [Jr.] and Vice Chairman Sass for their dedicated and loyal commitment to the College during their leadership tenure, which began in 1993 and will conclude today. Finally, I want to recognize the entire board of trustees for its support over the past year and for the work all members undertake on behalf of our students.

Now back to you, our honored graduates. You will recall that just a few short years ago when you joined the many new faces on this campus that I also was one of those new faces. Together we shared an excitement for the possibilities and opportunities ahead of us. I imagine we also shared a healthy dose of uncertainty of what was to come. For our shared beginnings at Ithaca College, I will always feel a special connection to you, the class of 2001.

In thinking about our respective journeys to Ithaca College, I know that we came here for many of the same reasons:

  • the wonderful diversity and outstanding reputation of the academic programs;
  • the quality and dedication of a very accomplished faculty;
  • the strong commitment, pride, and expertise of the staff and their very keen interest toward students;
  • the lively, engaging, and engaged student body; and
  • the setting in which all these factors come together -- the campus itself and the larger Ithaca community are places filled with activity and opportunity.

You and I came to Ithaca College in different roles, but these institutional characteristics and qualities that brought us here continue to ring "true." They were essential in making your experience an empowering and enduring one. The good and bad news for you is that you are now departing South Hill for another adventure. The good news for me is I am staying and will look forward to welcoming you back here many times in the future.

At our traditional Convocation that fall you arrived, I shared my hopes and dreams for you for your time with us. During the last few years we have all experienced many things, and I am confident that we have arrived here today different persons as a result of these experiences.

Regardless of what program or discipline you studied, I hope you developed those habits of mind that will continue to serve you well. When we talk of Ithaca College and its liberal arts tradition, this is what we mean. We are talking about that dimension of your academic experience where you developed your critical thinking and reasoning skills, your intellectual breadth, and your capacity to deal with an infinite amount of information and knowledge -- much of which is yet to be discovered.

In November 1932 then-president [Leonard B.] Job shared these words with Ithaca College students, and they ring true today: "Education is what you have left after you have forgotten all you have learned." In this fast-paced and radically changing world of today, the capacity to keep learning and to process new information and knowledge will make you all successful and effective professionals and citizens throughout your lifetimes.

Now I want to take a few moments to focus on the medallions that were given to you this morning by members of the Ithaca College Community Alumni association. This tradition of the presentation of medallions by our alumni is an important symbolic gesture, for 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 alumni includes several specific responsibilities:

  • First, carry your knowledge and skills forth 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 and elsewhere, by volunteering to offer guidance and opportunities to young people. We look forward to all of your future accomplishments and contributions.

I would like to share a few thoughts about the quotation from author Ralph Waldo Emerson that is inscribed on your medallions. I quote: "We wake and find ourselves on a stair; there are stairs below us, which we seem to have ascended; there are stairs above us . . . which go out of sight." I am sure many of you remember every word of the Convocation address I delivered in August 1997. I included this quotation in those remarks and felt it equally apt for my parting remarks to you today.

At significant times in your lives you will find yourselves on these stairs. As you move forward and upward, I hope that you will continue to learn from experience 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 stair, or step, of many in your life's journey. Sometimes the incline will be steep, sometimes gradual. Sometimes the steps will be bumpy, sometimes smooth. Whether you are looking back or ahead, have faith in your abilities, believe in your dreams, and have confidence in those who will support you when you need it the most.

You now stand on these stairs with knowledge and experience, ready to take the next step. Looking back, you have a sense of satisfaction in your many accomplishments. Looking forward, you have that returned sense of excitement for what is to come. As for today -- on these metaphorical stairs -- I encourage you to seize this special moment and reflect, project. Most of all, celebrate.

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. You have shown through your accomplishments here that you have the motivation and the commitment to do so. We -- the faculty, staff, and administration of Ithaca College -- have worked to provide 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 own community, your family, your neighborhood, your city, state, and our world.

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.

Finally, 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!"

And now, I would like to invite each new graduate to join me in moving your tassel from the right to the left in symbolic commemoration of Commencement.

Best wishes and congratulations to each one of you!