Maxwell alumna Phaedra Stewart ’91 finds it difficult to look at the world without seeing opportunities to connect with people, raise their spirits and empower them to make their lives better. A self-described serial entrepreneur (some might say a serial…
2001 University Scholar Commencement address
We are the Dome.
An undoubtedly odd statement. But take a look around. What we see here, beyond the concrete and turf, is the parallel of our lives. Every piece of this place fits into who we are, where we came from, and where we will go. The past, the present and the future coming together in a unity that has brought us to this place and time. We are the Dome.
Just like the Dome, our lives are made possible by all those who came before us. Beneath our feet lies the field upon which Syracuse has seen some of her greatest triumphs and tragedies. Under this artificial turf and concrete are the remains of Archbold Stadium, a glorious Romanesque Coliseum that faithfully served our athletic needs for 70 years. But, just as all the alumni before us gave up their places to allow other students a chance to learn, so the old stadium gave up its place in favor of the Dome. Let us not forget these alumni.
The foundations of the Dome were poured in 1979 – as were the foundation of many of our lives. Subcontractors molded these physical foundations, but our foundations were molded by our parents, families, teachers and mentors. The Dome’s foundations were laid in a few years, ours have taken decades, and were designed to ensure our survival and help us to be strong and not buckle against the elements of reality. We have our parents and families to thank.
The walls built on top of the foundation are rugged and strong, nearly impervious to the elements that batter them each day. Our walls were forged by the tremendous efforts of the professors and staff each of us has encountered. It has been their job to help design and shape our walls, to give us form and definition, and prepare us to fight the elements that lie outside this University’s protective domain. Each of us has that one person–a professor or a staff member–who has made a fundamental difference in our lives. Do not leave here without thanking these builders–without them our walls would not be as strong.
Atop the concrete floor the turf was placed. The turf represents turf, because not everything has to be symbolic.
With the foundation and walls built and the turf in place, those essential fans that work endlessly were installed. Our fans are our friends and colleagues, who have provided the most important aspect of any of our lives–friendship, companionship and spirit. We all have stories of friends who have gone the extra mile, done something important in our lives, for which we are forever grateful. It is our friends who keep life worth living, and keep our spirits, dreams, and aspirations alive.
The walls and fans in place, the capstone of this edifice was installed, this renowned roof. But the key ingredient that keeps it aloft was initially missing. The void in this Dome was replaced by air, in us the void has been replaced by memories. Whether it be your floormates from freshman year, a wayward trip to M Street with a less than savory end, or an all-nighter feverishly writing your last paper, these memories are the final ingredient that has brought us to this place and this time. Do not leave this place without reminiscing about what you have just been through–do not open the doors and let your memories escape.
For you see now, that we are the Dome. But where lies the future? Above us. Where we are headed is a mystery on a grand scale, a riddle each one of us has to decipher in our own way. But the sky is indeed the limit. We leave this place with firm foundations, solid walls, strong fans, and aloft with memories, fully prepared to tackle the uncertainty of tomorrow.
I have stood atop Mount Olympus countless times over the past four years, and each sunset has never failed to be brilliant. I realized something remarkable recently – that wherever we are in this uncertain world, whatever we’re doing and whoever we are with, the sun will always set orange over our Dome.