Thank you President Fox and St. Lawrence University for this great honor. I am deeply humbled; not only to be standing here speaking to all of you, but to be sharing this meaningful moment with you fellow graduates. Class of 2014, I salute you because, unlike me, you actually put in the hours! You've written countless essays and passed dozens of nerve-racking exams for this extraordinary thing called a college degree.
We're all passing over this threshold, and being recognized for for daring to finish what we started. We've invested in ourselves. We've invested in our futures, and we've devoted years of our lives to our dreams with focus, diligence, passion, and ambition. We share a common bond that no amount of passing time can change. St. Lawrence becomes a part of you. Years from now you might mention that you attended SLU at a dinner party and the grumpy old man sitting at the other end of the table will suddenly develop a knowing smile and a twinkle in his eye. You might be in a conference in Hong Kong or at a fancy party in the Hollywood Hills and if there's a fellow alumni there; just watch as all the stiffness & pretense melts out of the atmosphere: because St. Lawrence breeds humility.
St. Lawrence carries with it another great legacy. It has long been more than a whisper that people who attend St. Lawrence find love. Now, I know that sounds very old-fashioned, but the proof is in the pudding. Show of hands, how many of you found someone special while you were here at SLU? It's alright. Don't be shy! See, I write songs about love for a living so this is good fodder for the next album. OK I'm done embarrassing you guys. We'll talk later… Anyways, I don't know if it's been unequivocally proven, maybe there's a pie chart somewhere, but there's a legend that no other college in the history of the universe has ever nurtured so many successful unions. It's true. My apologies to Prince William & Kate Middleton who met at St. Andrews, but we win. Hands down. Scotland may be cold, but there's nothing like February in Canton, New York. This place generates well-insulated love that can stand up to the elements. I have proof; almost my entire extended family: 5 aunts & uncles attended & met their spouses at SLU. My parents, Sparky and Peggy, met right in front of Dean-Eaton. And now, 40 years later, they're still carrying on the legacy of love.
Honestly, more than anything else, it is love that got me here today. If it weren't for a tall, handsome, long-haired senior from New Jersey named Matthew Burr, there would be no Grace Potter & the Nocturnals. We met in my very first week on campus. He was fresh off a semester abroad, traipsing the halls of the music department wearing a bathrobe & holding a briefcase. I was like 'is this guy a professor or student or should I call security?' But that's where it all started. Within those walls, and eventually under the roof of the exalted Java Barn we came to believe in the creative force of the North Country. We built our rock & roll dreams right here. In fact, many people don't know this, but Matt was only a few credits away from earning his Masters in Education when we left in 2004. The rest is history as they say - we've been making music together for almost 12 years and just last week we had our 1 year wedding anniversary. I know…took us a second to tie the knot. We were kinda busy! Matt, you've sacrificed so much for my crazy dream & given so much to the St. Lawrence Community, you are a truly noble & generous spirit. Until you come back and earn those last few credits for your Masters, I share this honor with you.
The real message I want to send to you graduates, friends and family is that nobody gets anywhere alone. Dreams don't just lay around like pool balls at the Hoot Owl. As Tom Petty once said, you have to run them down. It was the passion and guidance of a few exceptional individuals that helped me to find my footing and build the confidence necessary to run down my dreams. I want to thank Professor Michael Farley who really guided me through my 2 years here and beyond; taking the time to sit with my family and talk through my decision to leave St. Lawrence. I also owe many thanks to the faculty who helped us along the way: Margaret Bass, Sid Sondergaard, Peter Bailey, Jim Schuman, Rebecca Daniels, Erin MCarthy, Al Glover; these are just a few of the incredible folks who inspired us. A big thanks also to Former President Dan Sullivan, Former Director of Admissions Terry Cowdrey, Former Chairman Frank Burr and his wife Grace (who also happen to be my new in-laws). I also want to thank The Brewer Bookstore, which was one of the first places to ever sell our hand-made CD's. I see now that it's these experiences, large and small and people who give their time in our early lives that truly shape our path. I hope you can all feel my gratitude and share in this experience.
When we all get our diplomas today, it will be for the same reason; we kept a promise. We pushed ourselves, challenged our will and eventually found purpose on our paths. Whether you lived off the land in a Yurt, trained relentlessly in the fitness center, devoted your time to student government, jammed at Java or danced the night away at the Tick Tock, learned a foreign language, found God, found love, sang in the Gunnison Chapel or Giants Stadium,… our roads were different, but today, we are all FINALLY graduates of St. Lawrence University. Thank you.