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President's Remarks

L. Jay Lemons, Ph.D.

May 11, 2014

President L. Jay LemonsGood afternoon. It is a joy to welcome all of you to campus for this beautiful occasion, on this glorious day, along the banks of the river, from which we draw our name.

Thank you, Stacey Geyer for leading us in America the Beautiful and in the singing of the alma mater later in the ceremony. Special thanks to Kevin Henry and the Brass Quintet for their contributions to the ceremony and to the many musicians who participated in Baccalaureate this morning.

For all assembled, today is a joyous occasion, as we celebrate both graduation and Mother’s Day. To all of the mothers and other loving maternal figures who have shaped each one of us, both those who are with us and those who are absent, we say “thank you” and Happy Mother’s Day. On behalf of the Class of 2014, I want to thank all the family members and friends who have helped light the way for these graduates.

As well, I want to offer a word of special thanks to the faculty and staff who dedicate their lives to our students’ learning. I hear regularly that these relationships are the most cherished element of the Susquehanna educational experience for our students. Thank you faculty and staff members for your love of learning and of these students.

Graduates, the first time we gathered as an assembled body was in August of 2010 for Opening Convocation. All of us who spoke that day tried to share with you that this exciting time in your life would be accompanied by challenge and pain, along with joy and triumph.

The title of my remarks that day was “Time and Questions” and I asked you to think both during your time at Susquehanna.

Questions about our world such as: 

  • How do we sustain life on the planet? 
  • How do we find ways to live and learn from others whose views of the world are different from our own?

And personal questions such as:

  • What kind of student will you be?
  • What will faculty write about you in letters of recommendation?

Through countless course assignments, research with faculty, late night conversations with friends, experiences abroad and on the playing fields, stage, and in the residence halls, you have begun to answer these questions.

In 2010–11, the theme for the academic year was “a sustainable future.” In my remarks that day, I focused on one resource that each of us must manage in order to sustain ourselves and our place in the world—that resource is time.

As the famous song from the musical Rent explains, there are 525,600 minutes in a year. Which means that during your four years at Susquehanna you were blessed with nearly two million minutes to invest in learning, growth, and friendships.

In one sense, two million minutes seems like an immense amount of time, but if you are like me, the four years they represent have passed by in a flash. However, I have seen you making the most of every moment during this senior week. We cannot stop time, but by embracing and living it to the fullest we create the memories that can last and sustain us for a lifetime.

My hope is that you feel your time in this unique community has been well spent and that you are leaving with special memories and clearer answers to questions like:

  • What are my special gifts and talents?
  • What are my dreams?
  • And, how might they be used in the service of others and the larger world?

I know from speaking with so many of you at our senior breakfasts and lunches throughout the year, that you have been profoundly changed by your interactions with one another and with the faculty and staff who have challenged and supported you. You also spoke eloquently about being “transformed” by your GO experiences. And, at the same time you express uncertainty about what lies ahead.

This is understandable. While you are certainly better prepared for what awaits you in the world—discerning and fulfilling your vocation, like your education, is a lifelong journey for which we are confident your time at Susquehanna has prepared you well.

One of the things that sustains individuals and institutions is the experiences we share and the meaning we derive from them. Susquehanna Traditions are those shared experiences that bridge time and distance to connect generations of Susquehannans to each other and this special place. We have chosen to symbolize these traditions and connections with one of the iconic features of our campus - the ginkgo.

Like the ginkgo trees that grow on this campus, our students become rooted here in the shared traditions and the mission of this place.

As a reminder of this, each of you will receive a ginkgo pin when you leave the stage from Brittany Bunting-Specht and Jesse Ramsey, the Outstanding Woman and Man from the Class of 2009 who are back home with us today. Brittany is a French teacher at the Selinsgrove High School and Jesse works for Deloitte Consulting. We hope you will wear your pin with pride as you go forth as new members of the alumni body and come back home to visit us often!

Note: Taken from prepared text. Actual remarks may have deviated from what was prepared.

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