The following are my remarks to our students from the class of 2020 who returned to campus last weekend to celebrate their graduation the previous spring in person:
Class of 2020, for 442 days, I have been waiting to say this: Welcome home!
When Spring Break began on March 7th 2020, few, if any, of us imagined we wouldn’t be back together nine days later, but fate had different plans for all of us, and as I indicated a few minutes ago, I have been counting the days until you could return and enjoy a moment of closure together and an opportunity to celebrate each other and your collective and individual achievements.
Through emails and home movies, I asked you to persevere and encouraged you to learn all you could from the experience. Many of you shared your own stories of fear, frustration, and fatigue; of hardship, struggle, and exasperation; and ultimately of resilience, hope, and triumph. You beat so many odds. I hope you are proud, because we are all so very proud of you.
We all learned so many lessons last Spring
· We learned how adaptive, creative, and ingenious you and our faculty and staff truly are
o Moving all teaching and learning online in a week
o Sustaining engagement through remote programming from student life
o Keeping WQSU on the air from bedrooms across the country
· We learned how compassionate and caring this community truly is
o Sending scores of computers, internet connections, and hotspots to students in need across the country
o Bringing over a hundred GO students back from literally all over the world
o Increasing the use of the Center for Academic Success six-fold to help bridge the gaps
o Implementing generous and flexible pass/fail options
· We learned how much our board and alumni are committed to our success
o Encouraging us at every turn and conveying their confidence when we needed it most
o Generously supporting the student care fund and the caring colleagues fund to help students and employees in need
· We learned how selfless and generous my colleagues are
o There are thousands of individual stories of faculty and staff going above and beyond for individual students and each other
Two lessons stand above the others for me:
· The first is how much we value being together as a community.
o Being part of a living-learning community is an incredible privilege, and we all recognized what it means to grow and adapt in each other’s company. We also found innumerable ways to maintain community with each other while being perpetually reminded how much better it is to be here together.
o Truly being in community is about the people. For the two months when there were only a few of us on campus, our connections persisted, our community was sustained.
o Before the governor approved gathering guidelines that made today’s celebration possible, some of you, and you know who you are, contacted me monthly, and in one case, weekly for nearly a year to be sure today would happen.
o Just after we announced your in-person commencement, I received a sweet note from one of your grandmothers thanking us for not forgetting you.
o Trust me, we have been thinking of today every day for the past 14 months.
· The second lesson is the regret of loose ends and things undone or unsaid.
o So many of you shared with me that the toughest part of last spring was not being able to say goodbye or to savor one last “fill in the blank.”
o That is an invaluable lesson. Every time you end a conversation or leave a place, think about the thing you would regret not saying if you didn’t get a chance for the next conversation. What would you regret not doing if you couldn’t return to a place.
o Say it or do it at that moment.
o Opportunities are fleeting. Seize the moment. Have no regrets.
o Never miss a moment to commit an act of kindness and never leave something unsaid.
o Never miss an opportunity to say I love you.
Class of 2020. You are brilliant, strong, resilient, filled with grace, and poised to make our world better.
You are proof that Susquehanna University truly educates students for productive, creative, and reflective lives of achievement, leadership, and service in a diverse, dynamic, and interdependent world.
In the year since you officially graduated from Susquehanna, you have continued to make a growing impact on your communities and our world, and this is just the beginning.
You entered a world of unprecedented complexity and challenge, but I am hopeful because I know what you can do. I am so proud of you, of what you have accomplished, and even prouder of what you will achieve.
Congratulations, and please remember, I love you!