ITHACA, NY—Actor David Boreanaz used the example of his own career in urging members of the Ithaca College graduating class to begin their search for “an authentic existence.” The star of the television series “Bones,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Angel”—a 1991 cinema and photography graduate of the college—returned to his alma mater on May 19 to speak at the 118th commencement.
Addressing some 1,610 graduates and their guests, Boreanaz noted that as an actor he has spent his life inhabiting other people’s psyches in order to tell other people’s stories. “But in so doing, I have crafted my own story and tapped into my own authentic self. And that is what you are doing right now.”
Don’t be discouraged, Boreanaz said, if the plot doesn’t thicken overnight.
“My search for that authentic existence. . . . took me on a journey from a parking attendant to a house painter to a props department assistant to the guy who hands out towels in a sports club and a guy who drives a truck and tries to sell gourmet food door to door. . . . Every day I would get off [my sister’s couch in L.A.], put on a suit, grab my briefcase packed with 200 resumes . . . and I would drive to studio back lots. I would go on in and I would act as if I owned the place. I’d hang on the sets, get unintentional cameos in the crowd shots, and when they called lunch, I’d follow the pack to craft services and I would eat.”
Those dues-paying experiences, Boreanaz said, along with the films and scripts he’d written at Ithaca College, taught him the art and power of telling stories.
“Live in your own stories,” he said. “And own them . . . . If you don’t, the story you’re telling is false. What connects me to you is what’s essential to all of us, the very essence of all of us. It’s life.”
Boreanaz told the graduates to persevere, referencing his own career. “You’re going to make mistakes—make them big. Make huge mistakes, learn from them. You’re going to get sidetracked. Everyone gets sidetracked. You might even get canceled; don’t take it personally. Just get back out there. Because you know what? If you make it through season two, they might even give you a spin-off.”
In conclusion, Boreanaz thanked the Class of 2013 for welcoming him home.
“When you think about it,” he said. “You never really say good-bye to Ithaca, because it’s very likely that whatever you find best in yourselves, you found right here. I know I did.”
The ceremony began with board of trustees chair Thomas Grape welcoming the class of 2013 to the fold of alumni.
The proceedings also included senior class president Rachel Heiss telling her classmates to cherish the many discoveries they’d made during the last four years.
“Identities change and transform as we take on new experiences,” Heiss said. “We are not the same people we were when we first arrived, and that’s not a bad thing at all. We are defined by these encounters, and it’s important for us to always remain open as we continue our journey through life as IC alumni. Our time at Ithaca College has taught us how to be critical thinkers, how to open our minds to new possibilities and theories, and most importantly, how to take advantage of any opportunity that comes our way. While we all have our separate identities, we have all been shaped one way or another by Ithaca College.”
Following Heiss’s remarks, the senior class officers presented the class gift of $14,915, the largest amount ever raised by a senior class. The Class of 2013 also set a record for the number of donors as well as percentage of class participation. With an Alumni Association Board of Directors match of $65 per student donor, the class gift will support the Ithaca College Annual Fund.
President Tom Rochon then asked the newly minted graduates to recall that morning in August 2009, when they first gathered as a freshman class to begin their college experience.
“Use that moment to think about who you were when you first arrived at Ithaca College, and then do an inventory of yourself today,” the president said. “You’ll find an amazing contrast. You know more; you have experienced more; you are capable of more; your voice is more powerful, and you have much greater insight into the essence of who you are.”
The world beyond college will also present challenges, Rochon said, admonishing the new graduates to face those future challenges with the same reflective spirit with which they faced the ones from the last four years. Do that, he said, and the transformation process will continue.
“Change and growth are wonderful things. They are the raw material of social progress and they are the essence of personal happiness. You will only enjoy the rewards of change and growth if you also hold on to what you have learned about yourself during your time at IC.”
The president ended his remarks by referring to the inscription on the medallions passed out to the graduates before the ceremony: “In the end, we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught.”
“I hope the quotation from the African environmental advocate Baba Dioum is meaningful to you today and that it becomes even more meaningful as the years pass,” said Rochon. “You now stride into the world as you once strode onto this campus, full of questions and doubts, I’m sure, but also full of the talent, energy and ambition that will enable you to tackle every challenge. Please embrace that world. Revel in its challenges, but do so from the powerful base created by the knowledge and values you’ve developed during your time here at Ithaca College. Don’t just conserve what you love; defend what you love, and give it everything you have.”