Presidential address for Commencement 2014

Conwell SpeakingPresident Conwell:

It is my great honor to offer my congratulations to you—the Class of 2014—on behalf of the Board of Trustees, the faculty, and the staff. Your accomplishments have been remarkable. But what astounds me even more is my realization that this experience was just an opening act for you, a brief glimpse into a future that I am certain will be shaped by your creativity, passion, and innovation. As proud as I am right now of your achievements, I can only imagine how I’ll feel when I witness what you do next in your careers and your lives.

Looking back on your educational experience here, where do I even begin? There are far too many highlights to list them all. I could speak of countless awards you have earned and the competitions you have won. I could talk about the real-world—sometimes even lifesaving—innovations that you as students have helped bring to market, here on campus and as student interns at Rose-Hulman Ventures. I could share details of the dazzling senior design presentations that I’ve seen. I know you’ve fine-tuned your special brand of inventiveness and collaboration from our world-renowned faculty, our caring staff, and your fellow classmates. The greatness that is within you has left its mark in many places, and you’ve only just begun a path to a rewarding future.

What I want to add is that such greatness brings with it a duty. Think back over your lifetime, and back further, many more generations. The great advances humanity has enjoyed, the positive change… they have, for the most part, been driven by gifted people educated in the sciences, in technology, in engineering, in mathematics. These people have filled their intellect with the building blocks of greatness, and have then ventured out and solved the problems of their day. They have made the world a better place for us today.

You share that same duty as you leave here now. You have a gift that the world needs. The problems that humanity faces are ever-more complex, and the solutions ever-more critically important to discover and create. The knowledge and abilities you have developed here belong to you, but the world will be a much more wonderful place if you share them generously. Be proud of what you’ve learned, what you’ve become—but please, don’t keep it to yourselves.

The great things you achieve from here on out will also benefit Rose-Hulman. The diploma you have earned has tremendous value, and much of that value is a reflection of the exceptional works of our alumni who experienced commencement, just like you this afternoon. Just like the members of the Class of 1964 whom have joined us today to receive and celebrate their 50-year commemorative degrees.

Consider this—we have had a record number of employers visit us here this year, attending our career fairs—in this very space—because they wanted to meet you. They have seen what Rose-Hulman graduates have done in the past, the accomplishments of the alumni who ventured into the world before you—those helped to open the doors of opportunity through which you’re about to walk.

Thanks to your drive and your accomplishments, but also in part to the examples set by our distinguished alumni, the vast majority of you have by now either been accepted into prestigious graduate schools or been offered exciting jobs… many of you have multiple offers from which to choose. These aren’t just any jobs, either… they have excellent potential for growth, plus pay scales that rank our degrees among the nation’s highest educational return-on-investment.

I ask you to consider the role you will play in continually building Rose-Hulman’s reputation and keeping that pipeline of opportunity open. Like the alumni who have walked across this stage in the past, what you achieve will help create the opportunities for Rose-Hulman’s great minds of the future.

You also can help maintain the value of your Rose-Hulman diploma by staying connected. I hope that you’ll be there when a Rose-Hulman student needs an internship or a real-world career mentor. I hope that you will help us seek out and recruit the next generation of exceptional students. I hope that you will lend whatever support you can as we move forward, implement our strategic plan, and advance Rose-Hulman yet again to an even higher level of excellence.

Today marks the completion of my first school year as president of this great institution, and what I have seen over the past year confirms what a great choice I made in accepting the invitation. I wanted to be part of a place that would constantly challenge you and me alike, to be better tomorrow than we were yesterday, to make a difference every day, in every way that we can.

I found that place right here, and know that I made the right choice. I trust that you feel the same sense of satisfaction about the choice that you made… and I truly hope that the challenge to constantly grow and improve follows you wherever your career path leads you.

I know the greatness that I see as I look across this talented Class of 2014 right now. And if you maintain that passion to be better tomorrow than you were yesterday… I know that the future is in great hands.

Thank you, and congratulations!