To the Class of 2018, congratulations and welcome to St. Lawrence University. My name is Kelly Appenzeller and I am a senior here at SLU. And if you would spare me a couple minutes, I would like to tell you something about this place, in the middle of nowhere, where your parents just dropped you off.
You might not know it yet, or in the business of this day you might not be thinking about it yet, but in this moment you are standing on the threshold of the future of your dreams. I’m serious, I know this is what your parents and friends have already told you, but don’t roll your eyes at me; it’s true.
With three years at St. Lawrence behind me, I am entering my final year. In nine months, I will be sitting where you are now, outfitted in my cap and gown, staring at this very podium and preparing for my final walk across campus. I have been freaking out about this for as long as I can remember!
But, for the first time in my life, as I stand before you, I now realize I am ready. I am ready to tackle the “real world” and ready to leave St. Lawrence, because I know one thing: St. Lawrence will never leave me.
For three years, these walls, these grounds, these walkways, those bells (and trust me, when they ring again you will know why), this weather, and these people… these Laurentians… have been preparing me for May 17, 2015, and for every day after. The entirety of this place and its people have equipped me for every hiccup along the way and shaped me in ways I never could have imagined when I was sitting where you are today.
If you told me I was going to travel to London, become Thelmo president, help build concert stages, have two internships in Washington, D.C., and give this very speech, I would have smiled and laughed.
And now here I am… St. Lawrence prepared me to succeed in all that I do.
As a first-year, everything is new. You are not even sure right now how to get back to your dorm. You are not even sure why these crazy, overly energetic, upperclassmen called “Orientation Leaders” are so over the top about your first day, or better yet, why this whole campus is overly excited. You don’t know how to register for classes, where to eat lunch, the shortcuts through warm buildings on -10 degree days, the best meal in Dana (hint: its on Tuesdays) or the best seat in Appleton for a Clarkson v. SLU game. All you know is that you are here.
But don’t worry, we’ve got your back. Let me explain.
We are excited because today was and still is one of our favorite campus memories.
We are excited because today was the beginning of this incredible journey we are on.
We are excited because today we are welcoming all of you into our Laurentian community.
So I asked some old friends what they wish they knew when they were sitting where you are now and this is what they said.
Abby Haley, Class of 2016: “As overwhelming as this might be, don’t worry! Before you know it, you’ll be calling St. Lawrence Home.
Meg Bernier, Class of 2007: “When you call Sergis trying to order a fat bag, never call it a fat bag. It’s a pizza roll, a famous pepperoni pizza roll.”
Jerry Peters, Class of 1995: “Take a course that scares you! And then take another class with your new found confidence!”
Macky Young, Class of 2015: “Remember, Titus Weekend may be better than Christmas.”
Matthew Clement, Class of 2002: “Take advantage of everything that's available to you. You'll never be in an environment again that will provide as many diverse opportunities at your fingertips.”
Samantha Brumley, Class of 2010: “Go abroad and embrace it!”
Lexi Beckwith, Class of 2014: “The Canoe Shack is the best kept secret on campus!”
Barbarajean Blodgett, Class of 1972: “Know that this SLU experience could very well be the BEST back-to-back four years of your life. Take. It. All. In.”
Taylor Gale, Class of 2015, “The Pub is our nickname for the Northstar Café in the Student Center, just a heads up!”
So, with that knowledge, Liv Durocher, Class of 2015: “The Pub closes at 11:30 p. m., so get food before it closes or the library turns into an installment of the Hunger Games.”
Erin McDermott, Class of 2007: “The people you meet the next four years will be with you for life but it’s okay if they aren't the first people you meet-- it may take a little while to find your niche and that's okay. It's worth it.”
Tracey Cross Baker, Class of 1990: “Make sure you go to the Holiday Candlelight Service, it’s my favorite campus tradition.”
Melody Caprio, Class of 2001: “You have now joined an elite club of folks. No matter where you go, if you meet a Laurentian, they will help you! The network is amazing.”
Adam Casler, Class of 2006: “Get involved! Join a club, attend campus events.”
Alexandra Kirby Taylor, Class of 1989: “Apply to work at Canaras for a summer.”
Courtney Meyers, Class of 2015: “On pasta sauté night, Dana opens an hour early…for a reason.”
Ed Forbes, Alumni Executive Council President, Class of 2002: “Once you realize that a piece of your heart will forever reside in Canton, embrace our North Country. You'll never live in a more beautiful — and fascinating — part of our world again."
Lexi Williams, Class of 2015: “The North Country is one of the best-kept secrets of New York. And The Breakfast Club in Placid does in fact have the best French toast.”
And what I, Kelly Appenzeller, Class of 2015, want you to know is that when its 3 o’clock in the morning. And you can’t sleep because you are either finishing a paper or just can’t turn your thoughts off, that it’s okay. It’s okay that you waited till the last minute, or that you got in a fight with a friend, or you made a mistake. Just know that as soon as the sun crosses the quad and comes in through your window, St. Lawrence will be picking you up, dusting you off and telling you to try again.
Just know that at 8 a.m., Dana will open and the smell of bacon will fill the center of campus. At 8: 30 a.m. when you walk to class, your professor will be sloshing around a cup of black coffee demanding that you get some caffeine in you because he has already had three cups and Islamic history is not for the decaffeinated.
At 12 p.m., you will meet your friends for lunch at the Pub, and the sidewalks will be filled with students with smiling faces. At 5 p.m., the chapel bells will ring and everyone on campus will be humming along.
And at 8 p.m., the sun will set and you will go back into ODY with a smile on your face, armed with a Dr. Feelgood, to tackle that assignment.
Because like I said, St. Lawrence has your back!
A good friend of mine left a letter on the whiteboard in the student government office. In it, he quoted Nelson Mandela. It read, “There is nothing like returning to a place that remains so unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.” And I smiled. Evan always knew what to say at the right times…
At St. Lawrence, you will grow and develop. you will try different things, and take on new challenges and values. you will change, and that is okay!
Every hour of every day, this campus and these people, who you don’t even know yet, will come to work to help you get one step closer to achieving your goals. You will make lifelong friends, tough decisions and take large strides. But what you have to remember is that just like the drive up through the North Country to get here, your four years will not be easy, but you will only remember cherished memories and valuable lessons that transformed you into the person SLU helped you become. The challenges you tackle, and the obstacles you will overcome, are going to prepare you for what’s next and everything in between.
So I leave you with this: in four years, you will be on this stage again. President Fox once challenged us to put a “fingerprint on the future.” Well, Class of 2018, you’re up. Make us proud. And remember just like your first day on campus, your first day after graduation there will be an amazing alumni network waiting for you. Because like I said, St. Lawrence has your back. And we cannot wait to see what you achieve.
Oh and one more thing: Kirsta Bray, Class of 2014, reminds you to never, ever graduate.
Thank you and welcome St. Lawrence University Class of 2018!