May 14, 2016
Good morning, and welcome to the 2016 University of Hartford Graduate Commencement. Today we honor all of you who have earned graduate degrees from the University. We will recognize all of you individually, and provide an opportunity for you to come across the stage and be recognized. For graduates who have earned their doctoral degrees, we will also provide a traditional “hooding” moment, when we will put a doctoral hood over your head, marking the moment you enter the community of scholars who have come before you. It is a great tradition, and we are honored to provide each of you with that individual recognition.
But let us begin with the very most important thing we can do this morning. I invite everyone here to celebrate your accomplishments. First, may I ask all of you earning graduate degrees to stand. And now, may I ask for a big round of applause for all of our graduates today!
As you will hear in a few moments, today we are granting degrees in over thirty master’s programs and five doctoral programs. These programs symbolize the full range of educational and intellectual experiences we offer graduate students at the University of Hartford. We’re proud of that, and proud of you.
But I know that graduate work is extremely intense—especially the doctorates. I know that most of you have families and professions already, and that you devote time to a wide number of activities outside of your graduate work. And I know that graduate work by its nature is insular. You are making a deep dive, as the popular phrase goes, into a particular field. You love that field and have either chosen it or hope to choose it for your life work henceforward. So, while you have been here—for the last one, two, three, four, five, or six years—you have been focused on the specific thing you are most interested in—how the shoulder functions, international financial markets, student affairs in community colleges, conducting or composing a symphony, or combating alcoholism or other drug dependency in our geriatric population—just to name a few of the many fields our graduates today have specialized in.
What I want to say in opening this ceremony is not how different or varied your intellectual interests are, but to focus on how much you have in common. You represent the best prepared scholars, artists, educators, and practitioners of your generation. And you are inheriting a world that is adrift, uncertain of what to do next, and in need of your insight and wisdom. (And I am not just thinking about the American presidential race!)
Our world is in need of improvement, our lives are in need of direction, and our souls are in need of nourishment. Your faculty here have prepared you to take on these daunting tasks. They have confidence in you. Today, by granting these degrees, your university is saying we concur. The task is great, but we know you are up to it. So go forth in whatever field you choose and do well, but also always remember to do good. Our future is in your hands—figuratively in the case of those of you in education, communications, or business, and literally in the case of those of you in music or in physical therapy!
As the traditional Jewish phrase would have it, go forth and repair the world.
We will begin, however, by bestowing honorary degrees on two women who have done just that, Sister M.T. Winter and Dr. Donna Randall. Coincidentally, both of them have done some of that right here in Hartford. M.T. Winter serves on the faculty of the Hartford Seminary: her work in religion and spirituality has enriched the lives of people around the world, but her teaching here in Hartford has inspired hundreds of grateful students and has helped make Hartford Seminary known worldwide as a center of spiritual life for many faiths. Donna Randall served for seven years as provost of this University, propping up an incompetent and bumbling president between 2000 and 2007. Her leadership during an important period helped us face obstacles and grow in size and in substance and paved the way for the next decade of success. She went on to a successful tenure as president of Albion College in Michigan and now heads the Cancer Prevention Institute in California.
M.T. Winter and Donna Randall are great examples of people who have done just what all of us hope you will do. Use what you have learned here, blend it with your own human gifts, and make this world a better place for us all and for many generations.