From the President
I get the same question over and over on commencement day: “Does your hand hurt?”
Two ceremonies, undergraduate, graduate, degree-completion and doctoral students. All said, it’s about 2,000 handshakes, dozens of fist pumps, and, of course, a few selfies.
I don’t get the chance to cross paths with all of our students during their time here. But on commencement day, I encounter almost every one on their path across the stage toward their futures. We exchange a brief handshake, just a couple of seconds, but I connect with what they’re feeling … pride, relief, accomplishment, joy, anxiety and optimism. It’s a privilege, really, to share that moment with each of them. In the world of higher education, it’s the end game, the reason I do what I do.
Commencement is always an emotional rollercoaster. Last year, the overriding sentiment was exhilaration. This year, it was gratitude.
It takes a village to pull off two enjoyable and memorable ceremonies, back to back, in just eight hours. There are a lot of moving parts. I’m grateful to the committed SJU community members who made it all look so easy.
Then there was the palpable gratitude of our honorary degree recipients: four inspiring and accomplished individuals who stood on our stage and exemplified for our students that success and humility go hand-in-hand.
If you listen, there’s a chorus of thank yous on commencement day that underscores an important element of the education we provide: It’s never about individual success.
I’m proud of the work we’ve done at SJU to open the minds and hearts of our students and to prepare them to lead lives that are as much about purpose as they are about accomplishment. This is the promise of a Jesuit education. The two are not mutually exclusive.
In her commencement address, honorary degree recipient and CHOP CEO Madeline Bell hit on something I say often about the value of an SJU degree. It’s not always about the first job, or the second job, but rather the longevity of one’s career and the fulfillment that comes from work.
“When looking for a job, find an organization that shares your values and a boss from whom you can learn, and success will follow,” she told undergraduates. “My best opportunities came when I took a lateral job to learn a new skill, a job that did not come with a higher title.”
You could hear a pin drop in the pauses during the graduate ceremony when honorary degree recipient, alumnus and precursory principal of Strawberry Mansion High School Linda Cliatt Wayman ’92 (M.S.) delivered her rousing and emotional commencement address. The motivational leader and educator paid homage to her Jesuit education for giving her the courage to make decisions that have had a positive impact on so many. She urged those in attendance to really think about what comes next.
“What will be your decision?” she asked. “Will it be your decision to be that heroic voice … ? Will it be your decision to lead when others will not, cannot or won’t … ? Remember life unfolds based on one decision at a time. There is only one person who knows where you are supposed to end up. Your decision will lead you to the prize of life: finding your life’s purpose.”
I’m confident that the Class of 2017 has the knowledge, ethical compass and compassion to make a lifetime of good decisions.