Chancellor Kent Syverud’s Address
On one of the biggest days of their lives, Chancellor Kent Syverud encouraged graduating students to remember family, friends and faculty when looking back on their college career.
Here’s a transcript of his speech.
“Welcome everyone, graduates, faculty, staff, family, friends to the Class of 2014 Commencement of SUNY‑ESF and Syracuse University. Or should I say, Syracuse University.
It’s my great honor to welcome you and to be followed in this welcome by the outstanding new President of SUNY‑ESF, my friend Quentin Wheeler.
This is a happy day. Each of you who is graduating today got here because of your own hard work. Each of you who are graduating today also got here because of an array of supporters.
Some of your supporters, your faculty and staff, are sitting in front of you and are working all around this Dome and outside it. Some of your supporters, your family, are right behind you where once again as always they have your back.
And some of your supporters, your friends in the graduating class, are sitting with you right now.
I want to very briefly speak to you, the Class of 2014, about each of these three groups: your faculty and staff, your families and your friends, and finally, your classmates in the Class of 2014.
First, about the faculty and the staff, at both Syracuse and ESF.
We of the faculty and staff learned so much from you, the graduates of 2014. You enriched our lives with ideas and questions and problems and initiatives. You changed us through your achievements in class, in competition, in the wild and around the world.
You were unique in your take on things. You were unique in what you did here. And that’s why we are going to miss you. That’s why the new students coming in here in a few short weeks can never replace you. On behalf of all the faculty and the staff, we thank you.
Next, I need to talk to you about your families.
I want you to reflect on your parents, your grandparents, your spouses and partners, your children, your relatives, your brothers and sisters, your family and friends. Some of them are here today and some of them so important to you could not be here because they are separated by distance or by health or in some cases by tragedy.
About your family seen and unseen today I say this: You learned a lot in this place. It may take some of you years to appreciate just how much you learned.
But what we, the faculty, added here was just a tiny increment compared to what you came here with, thanks to your parents and your family. The wonderful person your families sent here is still inside you and still defines you beyond our poor power to gild or to alter.
I say this to you because you graduates need to understand that your families are having many mixed feelings right now, on this Mother’s Day. A lot of them, though, are feeling wonder.
For me, the most amazing moments as a parent have come when one of my kids, one of my own kids, accomplishes something that I know I cannot do. Well, one of their kids is about to become a graduate of a great University. Your families, therefore, look on you right now in wonder and in awe as well as in joy.
But mixed with the wonder is the worry. Yes, their worry about you will go on.
Every single family member out there today remembers vividly at least one moment with you over the last decades, they remember a moment when the loved one sitting up here in cap and gown was sick or was in trouble or was infuriating or was just plain lost. Your families know you too well. You have aged them in countless ways.
I want to give you one concrete example. I have a mischievous son who is now a glorious adult. On his first day in nursery school my wife and I dragged him out of bed early, we washed him, we fed him, we dressed him, and we delivered him to a group of smiling teachers. They promptly sat all the kids down in a circle for “sharing time”, which meant each kid had to share one thought with the whole group in front of all the teachers and parents.
And my son, my four-year-old, with a smile in his eye and a crowd of adoring parents around him said four words: “My parents beat me.”
My point is that each of you in your own unique way and for your own unique reasons has a debt of gratitude to pay to the people who you aged while they got you to this happy day. So I ask the graduates to join me in thanking your families for getting you here.
Last, I ask you to think about all you learned here from your classmates. You learned from them at unexpected times, not just in class. Each of your classmates did have something to teach you, including the ones who were not your closest friends. I learned long ago that everyone, absolutely everyone with no exception, has something to teach me if I will just be patient enough to listen. And I learned more from my classmates than from anyone else. By far.
Yet when I graduated I lost touch with so many of them. I was busy. There was no Facebook. I had other priorities. Big mistake. Don’t do what I did. There are so many people among you who care about you based on a shared experience that can never be replicated again. Please work hard to stay in touch with more than a few of your friends here.
On behalf of Syracuse University, on behalf of all of us in this Dome, and on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of people around the world who care about this place, and who care about our newest graduates, I say to you: well and truly done.
We honor your work. We respect your achievement. But most importantly, we will miss you. Please stay in touch and fare well.”