President Stephen C. Ainlay's charge to Class of 2018

Nearly 500 receive degrees during Union's 224th Commencement
Nott Memorial
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President Stephen C. Ainlay's charge to Class of 2018


I want to thank our honorary degree recipient, Charles Lieber, for being with us today. We are proud to count you as member of our Union community. I also want to congratulate and thank our other honorary degree recipient, Judith Gardner Ainlay. How special that the Board of Trustees has recognized your many contributions in this way and how grateful am I that you joined me on our life journey together those many years ago.

Please join me in again thanking our student speaker, Gianluca Avanzato. We are all grateful that you chose to be a part of the Union community and we thank you for sharing your words with us today.

I would call your attention to the list of students who received departmental honors, honor awards, and prizes -- they are printed in the back pages of the Commencement Program. I would ask you to join me in recognizing them today with your applause.

We also need to thank Professor William Finlay, our Marshall, the members of the Commencement Committee as well as the entire staff for making this day run so smoothly. They’ve set up chairs, put up tents, prepared food, designed programs, seen that we all get to the right places at the right time, and taken on many other tasks. Please join me in thanking all of these people with your applause.

I’d also ask you to join me in thanking members of the faculty who are retiring this year: Donna Burton, Bruce Connolly, Annette LeClair, Felmon Davis, Ellen Foster, and Hal Fried. I’d ask the faculty retirees who are in attendance today to stand and I’d ask you to please join me in recognizing them for their many years of service to Union.

I also want to recognize the Rev. Dr. Victoria Brooks who provided our invocation today and who has been an important part of this ceremony for many years. She too is retiring at the end of this year, having made an enormous difference to our students and the College during her time here. I’d ask you to join me in thanking her and recognizing her many contributions.

I invite all of you – graduates, friends, family members, faculty, staff, and administrators – to join the department and program receptions immediately following this ceremony.

But before we take our leave and join those receptions, I want to issue my traditional charge to the Class of 2018. First, congratulations! let’s hear it one more time for the GREAT Class of 2018.

Your path to this day has taken hard work and commitment. I hope that you feel satisfied, proud, and ready for your next life chapter. The highly selective admissions process that identified you would have predicted you’d accomplish great things and you did. We saw evidence of this in the presentations of your research, your posters, your exhibits, and your performances at Steinmetz and throughout the year. Prize Day reminded us of your accomplishments in academic departments and interdisciplinary programs as well as the many ways in which you contributed to our community. We applauded as the world beyond our gates recognized your talents and accomplishments with prestigious awards.

In ways that I deeply admire, you’ve demonstrated your keen sense of citizenship and a great capacity to care for others. You’ve raised funds to support victims of various life-threatening diseases. You’ve demonstrated your care for your new “hometown,” Schenectady, through hours of volunteering. You fed those who were hungry, clothed those in need, and sheltered people who simply wanted a place of their own.

You’ve thrilled us with your exploits on field, river, track, and ice as well as in the pool. You helped secure Liberty League championships in basketball and baseball. You were on a crew team that proved best in New York. And, you inspired us with your participation in all sorts of academic competitions as well.

While other campuses were torn apart by conflict, you instead reached out to one another, engaging one another in constructive dialogue. You generously shared your cultural heritage with us. You’ve repeatedly asked us to affirm our common humanity.

To put it simply, for the past four years, you -- the members of the Class of 2018 – have made Union Union.

Let me close today’s Commencement ceremony and send you on your way, by issuing a charge that was given to Union’s first graduates: “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 wish you the best, members of the Class of 2018, you sisters and brothers under the laws of Minerva, you daughters and sons of Union College.

Godspeed.

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