As we approach the 2011 Commencement ceremony, I am reminded that the word “commencement” is an interesting and fitting word to describe the event. Commencement actually has two meanings—it is a ceremony at the end of an academic year. But, it also refers to a beginning and in this regard it is a most appropriate word to describe the graduation event.
Students are ending their academic programs and beginning the next phase of their lives - whether it is work, or more school, or travel, or some other experience. They, however, leave Nazareth with links that enable them to connect the experience that is ending to the new experiences that are now beginning.
The College’s mission statement is a forward looking declaration that connects the educational experience here with the future. The statement declares that it is our goal to provide a learning environment that fosters commitment to a life informed by intellectual, ethical, spiritual, and aesthetic values. These are not simply words but our very purpose, and our students end their academic careers with the understandings and abilities to foster that kind of commitment in the future.
The mission statement also provides that it is our goal to inspire in our students a dedication to the ideal of service to their communities and to making a difference in their own world and the world around them. Many of the graduates have been engaged with the community while at Nazareth. This year alone our students devoted 553,000 hours of service to the community. I am confident that they will remain committed to the ideal of service.
I want to mention another link between the phase of life that is ending and the excitement for the future, and that link includes their fellow graduates. Many of the students at this time of year experience mixed emotions—happy to have reached this significant milestone but at the same time concerned about the future of close friendships made over the past years.
Let me offer a personal observation about those friends. I recently spoke on the phone to a friend in New York City. We met during our college orientation more years ago than I want to say, and we roomed together our junior and senior years. We went to different law schools and he has lived in NYC since his graduation from law school while I have lived upstate. Nevertheless, we have stayed close, attending each other’s weddings, watching our respective families grow, and generally sharing our career and life experiences. We speak regularly on the phone and see each other often.
I mention this story to illustrate that as the graduates begin new phases in their lives, they too will maintain the close friendships developed over the years at Naz. In this respect the past and future remain connected.
Commencement may be an ending and a beginning, but the experience that is ending and the future that is beginning are permanently linked together.