2022 Commencement Address
Good Morning and welcome to the Commencement Ceremonies for the St. Lawrence University Class of 2022!
It is my distinct pleasure and honor to welcome our graduates and your guests to campus today for this auspicious occasion. Graduates, today we celebrate a tremendous milestone in your lives. The faculty, staff, and administration are proud of you. Indeed, Commencement is one of our proudest days on campus.
Graduates, today is YOUR day. But let us take a few moments to recognize those individuals who have supported you in getting to this moment.
We are so grateful to your guests who are here with you today. Your parents, family members, and friends have supported you, encouraged you, and helped you reach this milestone. Please take a moment today to contemplate the love and support they have given you throughout your lives and especially during your college years. Parents, family members, and friends, will you please rise as you are able, so that we may thank you for your role in our graduates’ success?
Graduates, in addition to the steadfast support of your families and friends, throughout your years at St. Lawrence, you were challenged and supported by our faculty and staff, who serve as teachers, mentors, advisers, coaches. Your academic and personal development is a direct consequence of the meaningful interactions you have had with our faculty members, both inside and outside of the classroom, and with our staff members who work on campus in a variety of roles to support students.
Graduates, I ask that you take a moment to reflect on the transformative influence our faculty and staff have had on your lives. Faculty and staff who work with students, will you please rise, as you are able, so that we may honor your role in our students’ educational success and personal development? Thank you for all that you do, every day, to challenge and support our students—they would not be here today without you.
Graduates, today on your commencement day, I’d like to share with you one of my favorite stories. This is a story that was published in Sports Illustrated back in 1990. Even though it’s old, I think it holds up. It reads like this:
“As a part of an international charity effort, John Bowes, chairman of Kransco, the parent company of Wham-O, which makes Frisbees, shipped 7,000 of the plastic disks to Sister Dominique, a nun working at an orphanage in Angola. Last week Bowes received a thank-you note from Sister Dominique: ‘The dishes you sent are wonderful. We eat all our meals off them. And the most amazing thing happened. Some of the children are throwing them as sort of a game. This may be an idea for you.” (Sports Illustrated, 1990, Volume 72, Number 24, Page 11).
Now why on earth would I share this story with you on your commencement day? Well, I’ve always found this story to be inspiring and instructive about how to live a good life. Let me explain:
First: Wham-O sent thousands of frisbees to an orphanage across the globe. There was no expectation of recognition—just offering joy to children who may play with the frisbees. We would all do well to think about ways to support others. As you leave our campus, I encourage you to practice random acts of kindness, volunteer, become philanthropic—find ways to improve the world around you.
Next, Sister Dominique received a gift and she took the time to write a letter of thanks to her benefactor. All too often, we forget to take a moment to express gratitude to others who support and encourage us. As you move through life, I hope you will make a practice of reflecting on the people for whom you are thankful, and to take the time to express your gratitude to them.
And most importantly, the children in this story used their imagination and creativity to take what was given to them as a plate and turn it into something that brought joy for themselves and for their playmates. So much of happiness in life entails being with others, whether in play as children, or in collaboration as adults.
As you leave St. Lawrence and move into your next chapter, I hope you will remember to be like the people in this story: find ways to serve those less fortunate than you, experience and express gratitude for the good things that come your way, and have fun.
Wherever you path takes you after St. Lawrence, please know that we trust you will be excellent ambassadors for your alma mater. And we look forward to hearing from you about the ways in which you use your St. Lawrence education in your lives.
Kathryn A. Morris, St. Lawrence University President
Sunday, May 23, 2022
Newell Field House