Interim Chancellor’s Commencement Remarks 2011

Harry J. Berman

Interim Chancellor Harry J. Berman

Commencement Remarks
University of Illinois SPringfield
May 14, 2011

“Trustee Hasara, President Hogan, honored guests, distinguished faculty members, graduates, families and friends:

Welcome to the 2011 commencement ceremony of the University of Illinois Springfield. This is our 40th commencement – the culmination of several months of events in the past year observing the 40th anniversary of this public university in the capital city of Illinois. This is the most gratifying day of the academic year.

While you graduates are a wonderfully diverse group of individuals in terms of age, life experience, background, race, ethnicity, and lifestyle, there is much that you share.

Each of you shares with your fellow graduates the experience of change that accompanies being a successful student. You have been changed by what you have learned in your studies – the knowledge and skills which are the hallmarks of a formal education. You have also been changed by what you have learned about yourselves, learning that you had in you the discipline and devotion, the patience and persistence that was required. And you have been changed by what you’ve learned about other people, and about how to function as a member of an organization and a community. Not one of you is the same person you were before you embarked on this journey.

What you also share is the wonderful human capacity and inclination to make sense of life’s experiences and to embed those experiences in larger contexts. As a psychologist I greatly admire has written, the activity of being a person is the activity of meaning-making. In my own career, my research took me into the study of diaries and personal journals. I found in those diaries the many ways that people incorporated the everyday events of their lives into the larger stories of their lives. For each of you, today is a singular event in the story of your life – the unique path that you took that got you here, the personal story leading to this moment that only you can tell. How wonderful it is to share and celebrate those stories with family and friends!

But I also found in the diaries I studied a shared search for meaning, a desire to connect with larger purposes. One former newspaper editor from Connecticut described that kind of connection as the feeling of being “gripped” by something external to himself. My sincerest hope is that your UIS education has not only provided the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in the world, but also has given you the wherewithal to grapple with the larger questions of purpose and meaning that challenge us all.

Times of war always make things different at colleges and universities. Since 9-11 of 2001, a total of 82 our students have had their educations interrupted because they had to drop classes or take incompletes because they were called to active duty in the U.S. military.

To each of them, I say on behalf of the UIS community, thank you for your sacrifices, and may you return to us quickly and in good health.

We are also aware that several of you with us today have served in either Iraq or Afghanistan. We prayed for your safe return and welcome you back with great joy! Others among us still have loved ones in Iraq, Afghanistan, or on active duty in other places. Like you, we hope for their safe return, and in the meantime, they are in our thoughts today.

I ask all of you to give a round of applause to all of our students and graduates who have served our country in a special way, especially in the past ten years.

Thank you.

On this graduation day, I promise all of you here that the degrees awarded today will serve you well and will grow in value as UIS continues to grow in reputation and stature.

UIS’ future is much like its students – bright and full of promise. Our aspiration is to be recognized as one of the top public liberal arts universities in the nation. And it is happening. Our strategic goals are achieving academic excellence, enriching people’s lives and making a difference in the world. We will continue to pursue our goals with the same tireless determination with which you pursued the academic credentials you will receive today.

All of us on this stage feel privileged to share in your accomplishment. This is your day.

We wish only the best, and all the best, for each of you.

by Harry Berman