Commencement 2011: Closing Remarks

Closing Remarks by President William P. Kelly

The final words are mine and they will be brief.

Education, my friends, is about transit—from its Latin root educere—a leading out, a progress from darkness to light.

In undergraduate teaching that journey involves the opening of doors, the suggestion of possibility. As with the raising of children, it is concerned primarily with fitting wings and encouraging flight. We measure its success in terms of departure.

Doctoral education is something entirely different. The relation between student and mentor is far more intimate. The connection formed is enduring—its gestation lengthy; its maturation marked by advice and counsel, by continually updated letters of reference, by the exquisite pleasure taken in a student’s professional success.

As the relationship between student and mentor develops it assumes the true form of scholarly practice. That is to say it becomes a genealogical undertaking. We are the heirs of others’ work, we make our contribution, we pass the torch.

Personality is necessarily subsumed in that process. We train our students to exceed our grasp, to render our work obsolete.

But our intent is not self-erasure. Scholars live beyond their time in the work of their students. Children may transmit our genetic codes; students extend the life of our minds.

So when we gather at commencement, we don’t celebrate your departure or take pleasure in your capacity for flight. Rather, we rejoice in the promise of a connection unbound by time. In short, my colleagues, you’ve given us a great gift for which we are profoundly grateful. Do good work and embrace the joy so deeply embedded in a life of research, teaching, and scholarship.

Well done! Congratulations!


Submitted on: MAY 27, 2011

Category: Commencements | President's Office - Archive