We were proud to host our 2013 commencement ceremony on Sunday, June 2, in Welte Auditorium at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain, CT. Below are some thoughts I shared with the Class of 2013.
Let me begin by congratulating all of you on your achievement. Most of you have arrived at this moment along a non-traditional path, often after a number of false starts, and over far more than the usual number of years.
But this graduating class has faced some extraordinary challenges because the past two years have been stormy—literally. Connecticut experienced two hurricanes and two blizzards of historic consequences. All of us know more about generators, storm tides, and snow removal than we ever thought possible. But against that backdrop of extreme climate, this graduating class kept at it. You persevered against not only the usual life events—sick kids, job loss, parental illness—but against the elements as well.
During one of our storms, the generator that backs up the College data center ran for one week straight. It kept our servers and our software running. But it did not power up your houses or the computers of our faculty and staff. Still, you persevered.
It is not unusual at graduations featuring adults like you to talk about how “Life Happens.” But never before has that phrase had quite so much natural disaster woven into it.
But the same might be said for both our state and national economies. They too are laboring through a storm. The long, slow recovery from the recession of 2008 has been a hallmark of the years that you have been working toward your degree here at Charter Oak. Your determination to finish your degree, even with the unemployment rate and the under employment rate so high, gives those of us who work in higher education both hope and inspiration. You may not have realized this, while you were taking courses, passing tests, and working on your portfolios, but higher education has been under assault. The value of a bachelor’s degree is no longer assumed. Providers of such degrees, like Charter Oak, must defend its value. Our success is measured in graduation rates, retention, and the employment success of our graduates.
So your participation in our program, your insistence that the degree you sought was worth the price you were paying, your honesty in critiquing our processes and our courses, all these reminded us that the degree path we are providing has value—to you. And your seriousness, your persistence, your ability to weather the storms—both falling snow and falling stock prices—showed us the value of a Charter Oak degree.
In every one of my graduation addresses, I take a moment to acknowledge the folks around you who supported your dream: the spouse who took on extra family responsibilities so you could write that paper; the kids who stayed quiet so you could read, and even the parents who babysat so you could go to library. And this year, let me add the brother-in-law who loaned you a generator. Graduates, give your support circle a hand…
Today I would like to close by thanking all of you for not surrendering your dream of a college degree. Not when it snowed 3 feet, not when the wind blew, the rain fell, and the tides came in, and not when the snow broke all the trees in your yard. Your fierce determination to finish what you started gives us the encouragement we need to keep improving, keep building new programs, to keep working to make you, our newest alums, proud.
Congratulations class of 2013.