Thank you Dr. Dudley-Eshbach, Faculty, Staff, Parents, Guests, and fellow
You do not have to be a Henson science scholar to accept that change in life is
inevitable. Borrowing a bit from Sir Isaac Newton—we are in a constant state of
motion. We must be moving forward or backward, closer to our goals or sliding
farther away. We are never inert.
Think back to who you were when you first stepped foot onto the Salisbury
University campus and now—think about the person you are today.
Certain changes have been minor - some of us changed our taste in music, finally
learned how to do laundry or learned that actually living this close to the beach
is the surest way to never visit it again. Some changes have been more
significant—we changed our religion or grew more devout, we fanned
intellectual curiosities into career ambitions and we discovered social injustices
that persisted into passions.
As much as we would like to think so, we did not arrive to these changes on our
own, nor are they the product of a single grandstanding speech or revelatory
moment. It was the passing days and years, slowly wearing to shape us into the
scholars who stand here today. It was the hours invested in us by those who
cared enough to encourage us and spur us on in times of weakness.
My father used to tell me “You will be the same person four years from now—
except for the books you read and the people you surround yourself with.”
The change I personally experienced at Salisbury University was tremendous. I
began my education at Salisbury University after a five-year college hiatus scared
and jaded. I was terrified that I would fail to complete my degree again. I was
sure that professors and students alike would find me inadequate. But, most of
all, I was fearful that my dream of being a doctor would end as my
Grandmother’s had over sixty-five years ago with an advisor telling her “Honey,
some women just aren’t cut out to do science. Some women just need to get
married, have babies and stay home with them.” But all that fear and anxiety
was for naught—Salisbury University welcomed me with open arms and I am
happy to say my grandmother Barbara Slabaugh is here to see me graduate
today and in three months will she will see me receive my white coat at medical
school. Grandma, thank you for believing this day would happen for me.
The evolution from anxious undergraduate to eager medical student was the
result of the tireless investment of others. The people I have been privileged to
surround myself with here, both students and professors alike, have influenced
and shaped me for the better. They have taught me there is no situation where
you are wholly alone ; all you have to do is reach out, ask for help and you will
gain strength from the power of community.
This is the culture at Salisbury University, for me, most pointedly illustrated at
the student organized candlelight vigil for Tyler Clementi, the Rutger’s University
student who committed suicide in 2010. There were many SU students openly
sharing deeply personal stories of reaching out to their fellow students at their
darkest times. And this generosity is not limited to the students. The faculty
invest enormous amounts of time in mentorship. Dr. Diane Illig, Dr. Diane Davis
and both of the Doctors Erickson have forever changed the way I view this world.
We have been afforded the rare privilege of having immediate and close access
to our professors and faculty. Having a faculty that invests in our lives and cares
enough to push us towards excellence is not an honor to be taken lightly. I am
awed to have spent time in such excellent company but these countless hours
were not a gift. They were an investment in our lives and futures that we must
continue to pass on. In just a few minutes, we will be Salisbury University alumni
and we must carry on that proud tradition of mentorship.
But as we have learned in our time here, our world of learning extends far
beyond the geographic confines of this campus. Graduates, let us not allow this
culture or this lesson to escape us once we leave. We are going to spend the rest
of our lives pushing ourselves towards excellence. And because of this, there will
be times where we will feel intimidated or outclassed. We might begin to doubt
our background, or credentials. But it is then that I implore you to reach out and
be a Seagull—dig deep, ask questions and understand that much can be learned
from your fellow colleagues and comrades.
Today, we are among thousands of students who are graduating across the
country, may of whom will hold the same degree or major. At Salisbury alone,
we are graduating with many who share the same degree—but the words on
parchment will never entirely encapsulate the knowledge we have gained. The
name printed on the diploma we are about to accept represents a wholly
different person than the name that was printed on our acceptance letter. This is
why it is not our own shining achievement that is being crowned here today, but
the collective achievement of many. We are the result of endless generosity of
mind and spirit.
Classmates, to whom much is given, much is required. Let us leave today
allowing the weight of such benevolence to press us onward, uniting us into a
force of change, shaping the world one person, one relationship and one step at
a time. Professors, families, mentors, friends and fellow students—on behalf of
the Class of 2012, I thank you for giving us the gift of your time, energy and