Commencement Closing Remarks 2-24-07


Commencement Remarks: May 24, 2007

The last words today are mine – and they’ll be brief.

Before we send you off to celebrate with your family and friends, I want to locate your achievement in the context of the extraordinary institution that is now your alma mater.

The Graduate Center is unique among American institutions of higher education in that its attention is directed almost exclusively toward doctoral education.

That focus influences everything we do, of course, but it inflects our commencement in a particularly dramatic way – and distinguishes it from the thousands of other college and university graduations that take place each spring.

That is so because education is, at its heart, about transit, a leading out, a progress from darkness to light

In undergraduate settings 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 other’s work, we make our contribution, we pass the torch.

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

But the intent is not self-erasure. Scholars live beyond their time in the work of their students.

Children may transmit our genetic code; students carry forward the substance of our intellect.

So when we gather for commencement at The Graduate Center, 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, the extension of centuries of scholarly exchange.

On behalf of the faculty of this wonderful institution, then, I greet you as colleagues, and partners in a common enterprise.

Do good work and embrace the joy so deeply embedded in the life of the mind.

Godspeed and well done!

Submitted on: FEB 24, 2007

Category: President's Office - Archive