Note: The following is President Rebecca S. Chopp’s prepared remarks to the Class of 2008.
On this day of joy and celebration, let us begin by thanking those who have made this occasion possible. Every graduate who walks across this stage is supported by many here at Colgate and at home who have worked hard to ensure the opportunities our students have enjoyed.
The family members and friends here today — and waiting at home — have made it possible for you to flourish. Join me in thanking your parents, grandparents, and other family members and friends who have supported your education in so many ways.
Thanks, too, for the Colgate alumni who have reached out to you to provide advice and counsel, internships and jobs!
And a special thanks to Colgate’s staff members: they have helped you navigate through your four years, supporting all our work, providing us with our daily sustenance, maintaining our facilities, and keeping these beautiful grounds.
And, of course, our faculty members deserve our special thanks.
Through mentoring, challenging, and questioning, they have opened new worlds to you, taught you how to examine all sides, instilled confidence in your abilities and set you on a path for a life of learning and curiosity.
Colgate students and alumni have diverse interests, opinions, and experiences. But when I ask what they value most about Colgate, the answer I hear most frequently is: “the wonderful faculty.”
As you leave this campus and become Colgate alumni, I want to reflect on your class and then give you a brief charge.
Class of 2008 — you are known for your hard work, your curiosity, your sense of fairness and fun, your intellect, and your passion.
You saw the campus transform with the construction of two wonderful new buildings: the Case Library and Geyer Center for Information Technology and the Ho Science Center. You have made them your own during your senior year.
But your class, in my mind, will be known for leadership. You learned to lead in so many ways. You learned from your professors and mentors, from our staff and from your peers.
You learned from the summer leadership institutes and from the many prominent leaders who came to campus — George Will, Jesse Jackson, General Wesley Clark, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Steve Levitt and Steven Dubner and, of course, His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
And you put your skills into practice.
In the arts, you led a renaissance on campus by participating in community arts programs at the Picker, experiencing visits from world renowned artists like Susan Marshall & Company and members of the School of Dramatic Arts in Moscow, and coming up with hundreds of ways to express your creativity through music, dance, theater, sculpture, painting, and printmaking.
You saw need, and you found ways to help.
Your sophomore year began as Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. So many of you traveled to New Orleans with the COVE during your winter and spring breaks to help rebuild and found many, many ways to lead by example, providing support to people in our local area, in the region, around the country and, indeed, around the world.
Colgate students are great team builders, and your class has been no exception.
Your class led the debate team to its current position of number four in the country, an astonishing achievement for so young a program.
You have also had great success in athletics: winning Patriot League championships, making NCAA tournament appearances in softball, men’s and women’s lacrosse, and earning numerous individual awards for performance on and off the playing field.
You led in the classroom — on and off campus, studying in Europe and Asia, Australia and Africa — some of you are venturing to Uganda in the coming weeks to study.
You have collaborated with your professors on original research, on studio and performing arts projects, and in service to the community.
You changed student government by rewriting the bylaws, electing responsible, energetic student leaders and working closely with the administration to achieve your goals.
Your class has led our efforts to bring environmental sustainability to the forefront.
You organized “Focus the Nation” and many other events and projects that raised awareness and will make a difference in the future.
I want to make special note and thank you for combining your support for the environment with your support for Colgate; you set a new record for participation in the senior class gift.
Ninety-two percent of your class contributed to the gift that will be used to set up an environmental sustainability fund at the university — again, helping ensure a better future for Colgate and the environment.
And now, as you go into the world as Colgate alumni, I ask that you continue to lead.
Your Colgate education has given you a depth and breadth of knowledge that will serve you well as you serve others.
Effective leaders are needed today in all areas of our lives: our families, our local communities and schools, our places of worship and governments, our businesses, the professions, the arts, and in all fields of research and scholarship.
Lead with your hearts, and with the curiosity, passion and humility that you have exhibited so well during your time at Colgate.