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2009 President's Remarks

Commencement Remarks by President L. Jay Lemons


Members of the class of 2009, you entered Susquehanna with great expectations upon you and great promise to meet and exceed our hopes for you. As we celebrate your Commencement today, I can assure you that you have fulfilled not only the expectations we had for you but, I hope too, those you had for yourself.

On behalf of the faculty, staff and Board of Trustees, I thank all of you who have had a hand in helping these 426 students succeed. We know that pursuing a college degree is not a singular endeavor; rather, it is one that requires helping hands, gentle nudges, and direct pushes from family, friends, teachers, and mentors. So in a sense, today is your Commencement too. We are grateful for the opportunity we have had to bring you into the embrace of the Susquehanna University family. While graduation marks the academic achievements of these students, it does not bring to a close your place in the university family.  Please know by your presence in the lives of these graduates you will always be a part of this place.

Graduates—please stand. Turn to face the crowd. On this special day, please take a moment to look around this audience for your mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters, dads, grandfathers, uncles, brothers and friends who have helped to light the way for you. To all of you who have been there all along the way, this standing ovation from the class of 2009 comes with grateful hearts and much love. Graduates, will you share your appreciation?

Will the faculty please rise? The faculty are the heart and soul of an institution of higher learning. Here we have a supremely talented and devoted group of distinguished teachers and scholars. Faculty colleagues, I want you to know that I hear every week from our students that you, along with other members of the staff, are the most essential and best part of the Susquehanna experience. I want to join your grateful students and their families in thanking you for your dedication, your wisdom, and your love for Susquehanna students.

If you are feeling pride today, I believe it is well founded. These graduates have distinguished themselves here in compelling ways that lead me confidently to know that these new citizen leaders will make great contributions as they continue their journeys.

We gathered as an assembled body for the first time in August of 2005 for our Opening Convocation. On that day, I shared with you a quotation from Albert Einstein: “The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.” Your four years at Susquehanna provided for you a series of moments—some pleasant and some painful—that create the brilliant and vibrant mosaic that is your Susquehanna experience.

For 108 of you, I hope yesterday provided your penultimate peak experience here at Susquehanna—climbing Mt. Mahanoy together. From that lofty place we saw the beauty of our river and these old mountains. We saw the campus we call home. We had a sense of being together, having accomplished a good climb and the vastness of the world that awaits you.

The combined effects of your years at Susquehanna is a footprint on our campus that joins those of all the classes before you and sets for the classes that follow you the course of being and doing that is The Susquehanna Way. As you have navigated these 300 acres over these past four years, I hope that you have developed an equally important sense of being rooted in a community that isn’t bound by acreage. Your relationship with Susquehanna and its people—is a lifetime one to be nurtured and shared.

You have been a delight and we are grateful for the ways each and every one of you that have helped to change and shape the university.

Today, you have come full circle. The same powerful mix of emotions you felt as a first-year student at Susquehanna is likely bubbling up near the surface again today. Apprehension mixed with excitement about expectations, fear of leaving the home you knew to set about creating your own home in a new place and making new friends, hesitant about whether you’ll be able to succeed when you don’t know what lies ahead of you, On this day, you should also feel confidence because you’ve faced new challenges before and have prospered.

As I reflect back again to Opening Convocation 2005, I understand better the emotions your parents felt on that day. It is a mixture of pride, excitement about what is ahead for you, and the heart tug of saying good-bye. On behalf of the faculty and staff, please know that this day is a bittersweet one for all of us—just as so many of you have expressed to me during these past several months.

Several years ago, we began a tradition of giving graduates pewter acorns in celebration of the beautiful trees that mark our campus. The acorn has rich symbolic meaning for people throughout the world and it is variously associated with wisdom, strength, abundance, success, protection and potential. What has been planted here in these four years has been a mere seed of knowledge that will grow in the rich and fertile environment provided wherever you may next call home.

As you cross the stage and receive your diploma, you will begin the next phase of your lifelong pursuit of learning. In recognition of that and of the connection between Susquehannans, you will each be handed a pewter acorn from Jonathan Illuzzi, the Outstanding Senior Man from the Class of 2004.

Members of the Class of 2009, the recommendation of the faculty that underlies the conferral of your degrees is Susquehanna’s expression of our belief that each of you does understand your place in the chain of human history. But, to be truly educated, you must give yourself to the process of learning and the pursuit of curiosity. Seek answers to questions. Impart your knowledge on others. Your education isn’t ending, it is just beginning.

Congratulations and Godspeed.

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