Thank you President Fox. Faculty and staff, Board of Trustees, distinguished guests, parents, family, friends, and most importantly my fellow classmates in the class of 2013—welcome. For two semesters, including my Senior Year Experience in the fall, I had the privilege of closely studying the work of Alice Munro, the Canadian whose excellent stories have graced The New Yorker for decades. I grew to love and admire her work, but there was one quotation from her story, “Face” in her collection Too Much Happiness that resonated with me and reminded me of our beloved St. Lawrence. She writes, “In your life there are a few places, or maybe only the one place, where something happened, and then there are all the other places.” St. Lawrence is THE one place—the one place that we have called home for the past four years, the one place that has shaped us into critical thinkers, the one place that has marked our hearts with the Laurentian crest, for we are Laurentians for Life.
Throughout my creative writing classes as an English major, I repeatedly encountered a specific challenge. How is it possible to write a short story or an essay in a unique way when there have been so many outstanding writers before me who have gracefully accomplished this task far better than I likely ever will? Why is my story important? Although I have wrestled with this question, I slowly learned how to capture my voice, or the voice of my story’s character, on the page.
Our time at St. Lawrence is similar to this. We arrived as wide-eyed first-year students, unsure of what kind of surprise was waiting for us at the end of the Quad Experience or why we needed to try the chicken salad with grapes at Newell or why we needed to add courses to our request list on APR. We didn’t know how to make our time here at St. Lawrence our own or how we could write our stories in our own words. But we did—with the help of faculty, staff, community members, and of course each other. Our stories weave together, bound by one particular quality: happiness.
As many of you may remember, the title of President Fox’s inauguration speech in the fall of 2009 was “The Marks of the Happy University.” At the end of his remarks, he highlighted the importance of holding on to happiness despite the fact that our world may not always be so. He wrote, “While we are not exempt from its problems and heartache, the world, as this day symbolizes, would be so much better if other places in it, where our students will someday go to live, were as happy as St. Lawrence is and must always be.” Now, as we gather together as the first class to spend four years with President Fox, I believe that we have maintained this happiness that brings our campus to life. Our genuine love for each other is what distinguishes us and contributes to the candle in the wilderness—the one place that will never be extinguished.
As I walked through Whitman Hall a few years ago, giving a tour to a prospective student, we discussed the weather at St. Lawrence. “Isn’t it cold?” they asked me hesitantly. “Well yes, it’s cold,” I replied. There was no way of getting around that question. Then, a passing student nodded in agreement, grinned broadly and said, “Yes, it’s really cold, but the people here are so warm.” I stood there for a moment, knowing that I couldn’t have said it any better. It was clear to me that he was learning how to write his own St. Lawrence story and in that small interaction, he taught me how to write mine, just as I’ve learned from the talented writers that I have studied in my English classes.
Now, please don’t forget, the story is not complete after we receive our diplomas in a few moments. We will continue to write our stories in the coming years, and for the rest of our lives. St. Lawrence will always be the one place at the center of our story, where we not only learned to be individuals, but also part of a happy community. Thank you and congratulations.