Friday, May 19, 2023
Dedicated students, distinguished colleagues and dear friends,
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, The Godfather, Roe vs. Wade, the Paris Peace Accords, the Sears Tower, Bosphorus Bridge, AC/DC, Journey, Kansas, Kiss, Quiet Riot, the first cell phone call, 40-cent gas and 8-cent postage stamps! What was the year? Only the golden can play.
You see, this week we welcomed our Golden Alumni back to campus. Remarkable women and men who graduated in 1973, at our then-centennial commencement, and went on to make their marks on their profession, society, community and families. Among them there were inventors, discovers, astronauts, national leaders, business leaders, military leaders, art collectors, writers and philanthropists, just to highlight a few. As they walked across the stage, the large overhead screen portrayed individual pictures of them in their college years. Pictures that radiated a heightened sense of purpose and all the optimism of youth. One by one, they walked across the stage and stood next to me as I handed them their Golden Certificate while the photographer snapped a picture.
For the entire minute or so of my interaction with each of them, when I had the opportunity to look them in the eyes and shake their hands, my mind was connecting the enthusiasm of the young person on the screen with the courage to forge their future. I was thinking of their collective contributions, their individual paths to success and, perhaps most importantly, their dual sense of urgency of purpose and the enduring patience to achieve life’s worthy goals.
Their success in creating their own future of success took me back to a conversation I had with my own father in my early years. Following a simplistic conversation about future directions of life that any father would have with an 8-year-old, he asked a question that is translated close to, “If God guaranteed that you would become whatever you wanted to become, what would it be?” I recall that my answer was as simple as something like “I want to drive a train.” To which he said, “Then figure out how to make it happen!” My answer was simple but my father’s question and the logic behind his reply never left me: set a vision and then make it happen.
During the Golden Alumni welcoming event, I couldn’t help but think of our 2023 graduates who left the campus a mere three days earlier to begin their own journey of success. I wanted to call them all back so that they could see for themselves the examples of careers pursued well by our golden alumni. For them to believe in themselves and know that they can overcome the most challenging of situations and punch right through any artificial ceiling, as long as they set their goals and pursue them relentlessly. I want them to see examples of staying resolute in pursuing purpose and, in the process, become exemplars and inspiration for the generations that will follow them.
To our golden alums, I say thank you for coming home. Thank you for your endurance, struggles and successes, and for what you have done, for what you have overcome, and for remembering and returning to your old glorious stomping grounds.
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