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Union College 215th Commencement Exercises:  Charge to Graduates

Commencement 2009

June 14, 2009

Could we have asked for a better way to celebrate the accomplishments of the Class of 2009?

I want to thank our honorary degree recipients--Dr. Volcker and Dr. Perl for being with us today. You both honor us by your presence and we are proud to count you among our own.

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 to join me in recognizing them today with your applause.

I would also invite all the members of the Class of 2009 to stand, turn to 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 and sustained you the past four years.

Would all of you join me in thanking the members of the Union faculty who have shared their love of learning with you these past four years and especially Linda Almsted, who is retiring this year.

I also 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.

I 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 fine opportunity to affirm the bonds that have been forged.

Now please allow me a few words to our graduates.

At the Senior Dinner on Tuesday evening, I told you that you should be proud of the many things that you've accomplished during your time here and proud of the ways in which you've inspired others during your four years at Union.


Successfully competed on ice, court, field, pool, and water, achieving remarkable success, setting school records and, every bit as importantly, establishing a reputation for Union as home to the "student-citizen-athlete"

Were successful in SAE Baja, Model U.N. and other academic competitions

Focused our Greek organizations on the College's Strategic Plan and, in turn, advanced us toward critical goals

Volunteered in Schenectady and across the region, awakening young minds, providing tax assistance to low income residents, and restoring hope

Raised funds for breast cancer research, victims of domestic violence, and victims of HIV/AIDS in Africa

Ran 5 kilometers as part of "Run, Ribs, and Reggae" to aid the search for a cancer cure

Helped build a Habitat House

Organized Minerva Games and a U-Care carnival

Went to Ethiopia as Engineers without Borders and developed plans to restore critical water resources to a village in need

Guided Schenectady students as they participated in the STEP competition, igniting a passion for science, technology, and engineering

Found sustainable solutions, building a green garden shed, developing and testing innovative rubberized sidewalks and hybrid wind turbines, and cultivating a garden that gives real meaning to the phrase "locally grown produce"

Helped victims of domestic violence in Cambodia and addressed the plight of people living in U.S./Mexican border towns

Committed yourselves to being citizens of the world and will go off to the far reaches of the globe as Minerva Fellows and teachers, and in other capacities, with one central goal: to make life better for people who need you

Reminded us all of the virtues of religious and spiritual diversity and of the need to continually enlarge the educational table so that all can partake of its bounty

Helped reclaim the memory of Moses Viney, an escaped slave who found a home at Union College

Helped make Union a more inclusive and welcoming place for all members of our community

You did all this and more. We are grateful to you for all that you've done to support each other and to improve Union and the broader community during your years here.

Hopefully Union has done much for you. We hope that your time here has helped you find your own passion. We hope that you've had "ah-ha" moments and now understand the world in new ways. We hope your time at Union has deepened your love of learning and provided you with intellectual and social tools that will allow you to be successful in whatever you choose to be and do.

And, we hope you carry with you memories, friendships, and commitments that will endure. One word of advice: don't take these relationships or your relationship to this College for granted. Work at nurturing and retaining the relationships you've developed. Stay in touch with each other. Stay in touch with faculty and staff here--people who made a difference in your life and who care about what happens to you. By staying in touch, you will not only keep relationships alive, you will ensure that Union remains part of your life.

It is impossible to spend four years at Union and not hear of the fabled accomplishments of those who graduated ahead of you. The "Union Notables" posters that now adorn the Library and the walls of College Park Hall, the statues and wall plagues, the portraits that hang across campus--all these should inspire as you contemplate the possibilities for your life.

I would like to close today's Commencement ceremony and send you on your way, by paraphrasing the charge that Union's first President, John Blair Smith, gave to Union students over 200 years ago: "as you leave this place, do so ready for a useful life." No matter what you choose to do in the years ahead, remember that your academic lineage is a great one and your lineage beckons you to make a difference.

I look forward to welcoming you home to this special place many times in the years ahead. We all wish you the best, you sisters and brothers under the laws of Minerva, you daughters and sons of Union College.