L. Jay Lemons, Ph.D.
Good afternoon. My name is Jay Lemons and it has been my great honor and privilege to serve as president of Susquehanna during this 153rd academic year. It is a joy to welcome all of you to this campus for this beautiful occasion on this glorious day along the banks of the river from which we draw our name.
I would like to thank Kelsey Zimmerman for leading us in America the Beautiful and also for leading us later in the singing of the alma mater. Also, special thanks to Kevin Henry and the SU Brass Quintet for their contributions to the ceremony and to all those who participated in Baccalaureate this morning.
On behalf of the faculty, staff and Board of Trustees, I thank all of you who have had a hand in helping these 469 students succeed. Pursuing a college degree is not a solitary endeavor; rather, it is one that requires helping hands, gentle nudges, and direct pushes. These loving touches come from family, friends, teachers and mentors. So in a very real 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 too 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 2011 comes with grateful hearts and much love. Graduates, will you share your appreciation?
Please be seated.
And now, 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.
To all gathered here, 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.
The first time we gathered as an assembled body was in August of 2007 for our Opening Convocation. That day and that event are probably in the deep recesses of your mind. For, though it is one of my favorite events, it is often a blur for new students. On that day, I shared with you advice from a student leader at Susquehanna. This person said, “If you follow the crowd, you are fulfilling someone else’s purpose at SU. Create your own crowd and fulfill your own purpose.” Everyone’s educational experience is different and 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. One commonality exists, though. Your Susquehanna education changed you—such is the aim of education. To open you to meet the person you are meant to become. To take you to places you didn’t know existed—or to places you feared.
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 and a family 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.
As I reflect back again to Opening Convocation 2007 and as I prepare to send my eldest daughter to college, 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 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 oak 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 and the cultivation of habits of mind and heart that create the potential for each of you to live a life of achievement, leadership and service.
As you cross the stage today 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 Andrew Gilbert, the outstanding senior man from the Class of 2006.
Trustee Signe Gates has said that one goal of a Susquehanna education is that each student will come to understand his or her place in the chain of human history. It is this expression that underlies the faculty’s recommendation of the conferral of your degrees. But, to be truly educated, you must give yourself wholly to the process of learning. Be curious. Seek answers to questions. Share your knowledge with others. This is the chain of human history. Your education isn’t ending, it is just beginning.
To the Class of 2011 and to every one of you, congratulations and Godspeed.
(Taken from a prepared text)