|June 17, 2007|
Text of President Stephen Ainlay's remarks
Charles Gibson, President Stephen Ainlay and Richard R. K. Sorabji arrive at Hull Plaza for the 2007 Commencement.
What a wonderful way to mark your final days as a student at Union College and the commencement of the rest of your lives! I have forged relationships with many members of the Class of 2007, and I only wish that we’d had more time together. In any case, I have greatly enjoyed this first Commencement ceremony as your President .
I want to thank our honorary degree recipients for being with us today. You both honor us by your presence and we are proud to count you among our own.
I would now like to ask Dr. Gibson to join me one more time at the podium.
It is my great privilege to publicly announce for the first time that Charles Gibson has established a scholarship in memory of his father, Burdett Gibson, Union Class of 1923. The Burdett Gibson, Class of 1923 Scholarship will enable, in perpetuity, students in financial need to study at Union College.
We are so grateful to you for this remarkable act of generosity. We are so pleased that today you join your father and uncle as members of the Union family. How appropriate and meaningful that we announce this wonderful new scholarship on the occasion of awarding you your honorary degree, and on Father’s Day. I am certain your father would be extraordinarily proud as we are extraordinarily grateful.
In celebration of this scholarship, we would like to present to you a copy of the 1923 Union Yearbook and a framed copy of your father’s Yearbook entry. I note that your father was cited for “coming out of the most overwhelming situations unscathed.” We all hope that he passed along his secret to you!
I would call your attention to the list of prize recipients, printed in the back pages of the Commencement Program. They received their awards at Prize Day but I would ask you all now to join me in recognizing them today with your applause.
A candid Commencement moment
I would also invite all the members of the Class of 2007 to stand, turn and face your family and friends in attendance today, and join me in thanking them with applause for their love and support which prepared you for Union.
Would you also join me in thanking the members of the Union faculty who have shared their love of learning with you these past years. And, a special bit of applause for Professor Les Hull, Department of Chemistry, who is retiring at the end of this year.
Finally, I want to thank Professor William Finlay, our Marshall, the members of the Commencement Committee as well as the entire Union staff for organizing this day, readying this beautiful campus, and preparing food that we will enjoy. They have approached this day as they approach every day, with devotion and care.
It is my great privilege to invite all of you – graduates, friends, family members, faculty, staff and administrators – to join the divisional receptions immediately following this ceremony. These divisional receptions offer a great opportunity to affirm the bonds that have been forged.
Now please allow me a few words. After today, you join the legions of those who have graduated from Union College. Hopefully you carry with you memories, friendships and commitments that will literally last your lifetime. As I’ve traveled the United States this year – visiting alumni clubs in New York, Boston, San Diego, San Francisco, Naples, Fla., Dallas, Houston, Philadelphia, Chicago and other great cities – I have been struck by the hold that four years at Union has on people. Fifty years from now, I think I can safely predict that some of your best friends still will be members of the Class of 2007. Indeed, in times of both joy and sorrow, you will likely pick up the phone (or whatever communication device exists then) and talk to one of your classmates. That is part of the legacy of Union in your lives.
Faculty lead Union's newest graduates from the 2007 Commencement Exercises.
Over the past four years, you have walked the same pathways as did many illustrious Union graduates: Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of State, William Seward (Union Class of 1820); our 21st U.S. President, Chester Arthur (Union Class of 1848); the designer of the first New York subway system, Solomon Deyo (Union Class of 1870); the inventor of the laser, Gordon Gould (Union Class of 1941); Nobel Prize winner, Baruch Blumberg (Union Class of 1946); the head of morning and late night programming for ABC, Phil Beuth (Union Class of 1954); the winner of an Oscar for Best Picture, Robert Chartoff (Union Class of 1955); the winner of a National Book Award, Andrea Barrett (Union Class of 1974); and MacArthur “Genius” Award recipient, Sue Goldie (Union Class of 1984).
Walking the same pathways they walked, joining the same community that they joined, has been your privilege as a student at Union College. After today, this too becomes part of Union’s legacy in your life. And, it becomes your obligation.
Now it is your turn to realize your dreams; now it is your turn to invent things that will improve people’s lives; now it is your turn to lead institutions, both for profit and nonprofit; now it is your turn to mend lives and heal wounds; now it is your turn to educate; now it is your turn to take responsibility for the welfare of the communities in which you will live. Now, in short, it is your turn to make a difference.
I closed my inauguration ceremony last fall by reading a charge issued to Union students by the first President of Union College, John Blair Smith. I close today’s Commencement ceremony and send you on your way, by paraphrasing President Smith’s words, which continue to reverberate over the now two centuries since he issued his charge: “As you leave this place, do so ready to live a useful life.”
Best wishes to all of you, and Godspeed.