MAY 19, 2001

President Hitchcock Delivering Her Graduate Commencement Speech
President Hitchcock Delivering Her Graduate Commencement Address

Thank you, Professor Bosco.

Reverend Moore, Chairman Philip and Members of the University Council, Dr. Friedman, honored guests, faculty, staff, alumni, family and friend and, most especially, our graduates.

On behalf of the faculty, it is my distinct pleasure and honor to welcome you to this, the Graduate Ceremony of the 157th Commencement of the University at Albany.

Let me begin this ceremony by offering my sincere congratulations to each of you who will, today, be awarded your Master’s degree, your Certificate of Advanced Study, or your Doctorate.

This is the day that we end one journey together and begin another. And, on behalf of all of us in the University at Albany community, I congratulate you on all you have accomplished.

This is a time to rejoice, a time to reflect on the path that brought you to this moment of accomplishment, a time to give thanks to your families, your loved ones, the faculty – all who made the journey possible.

Today is a celebration of scholars. You wear the caps and gowns that generations of UAlbany-educated men and women have worn before you. Your predecessors used their education to make meaningful and lasting contributions to their professions, to their communities and to the world. And so will you. Today your class becomes the 157th link in an unbroken chain of knowledge, accomplishment and pride. In the judgement of the faculty, you now possess the deep understanding of your particular disciplines as well as the habits of mind that will be so critical in meeting the challenges of our complex and ever-changing world.

Indeed, I would submit that the need has never been greater for the advanced learning and research to which you have dedicated yourselves.

The challenges that we face as a nation require men and women who are thoroughly grounded in the disciplines and professions, and who recognize the centrality of their scholarship to the societal challenges we face…the need to advance medicine through research in the sciences; the need to develop new pedagogies and curricular innovations that will enrich our schools; the need for enlightened public policy, informed by research and scholarship, that addresses issues of poverty, crime and health care.

The quality of life in America depends also on our cultural accomplishments and the need to enrich the arts, literature, political thought and public discourse. This requires the work of scholars and thinkers like you who will illuminate our lives, help us understand who we are as a nation and remind us of why our country is great.

And so I urge you, as you complete your studies, to put to good use all that you have learned…to apply your knowledge for the betterment of our region, our state and our nation…for the betterment of others.

A number of years ago, John Gardner spoke to this need to combine intellect with passion, knowledge with commitment. He wrote, "A Nation is never finished. You can’t build it and then leave it standing as the pharaohs did the pyramids. It has to be re-created for each generation by believing, caring men and women. It is now our turn. If we don’t care, nothing can save the nation. If we believe and care, nothing can stop us."

This Commencement Ceremony has but one purpose…to honor you and your families. With the help and support of your parents and loved ones, you studied, sacrificed and began a commitment to life-long learning which will prepare you well for the challenges ahead.

I am honored today to represent the faculty who taught and guided you…who care so deeply about who you are, and what you will become. All of us share the hope that the joy and deep sense of accomplishment you feel today will be repeated – over and over again – throughout your lives. While I am sure you have all had moments of frustration and self-doubt, you have also experienced the exhilaration of discovery and growth…of realizing that you are capable of more than you ever dreamed…yes, that you can made a difference!

Senator Robert F. Kennedy beautifully captured the potential you all have to truly make a difference when he said, and I quote, "Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation."

Graduates of 2001, on behalf of your faculty, I thank you for all you have given to the University at Albany, and I commend you to use well all that you have learned.

And, most of all, my very best wishes to you as you embark upon your future… as you continue the journey you began here in Albany.

Again, my most sincere congratulations to you all.

Karen R. Hitchcock
President, University at Albany