Commencement Address Fall 2017
Welcome graduates, friends and families.
Whether you are here with us in person or watching online, I join you in celebrating our newest graduates.
Every student whose name will be announced during this ceremony has found support and encouragement – from those who have taught and guided them while here, and from family members and friends who made it all possible.
This is truly a day for celebration.
It is also a day when you earn a new title – you can proudly call yourself a graduate of UT Dallas.
That is an honor that you share with almost 100,000 alumni around the world.
You got admitted to UT Dallas because earlier in your life you demonstrated to this university that you were smart and willing to work hard. You are graduating today for the very same reasons.
You didn’t do this alone, of course. I trust that each of you has been positively impacted by members of our stellar faculty and staff.
Graduates, you sit here today with some questions easily answered – questions such as:
- Why did I sign up for morning classes?
- Is it socially acceptable to wear pajamas to class?
- What style font will make my paper look longer?
- Will I ever get a full night’s sleep?
But, there have been more complex questions, too:
- Am I happy with the person I am becoming?
- How can I improve my life and the lives of those around me?
- Where do I want to be in ten years?
I want to challenge you today with another question:
- What can I do with what I know?
It is a question that will not only give shape to your future, but also the future of our society.
This theme of “what can you do with what you know” is central to contemporary cultural trends and can have a transformational impact. … And we know something about change at UT Dallas.
You all have endured the disruption caused by the ongoing transformation of our beautiful campus. But wasn’t the result worth it?
Beyond the physical changes at this university, though, changes in our young university over the last 50 years have resulted from the vision of our founders, and critical collaborations with industry, government and individuals.
1969 was the year when we moved from a private, graduate research center to a member of the University of Texas System.
Then, in 1990, UT Dallas was reinvented when freshmen were first admitted.
And now, we are in the midst of another incarnation – as a recognized Carnegie Research-1 university – with all that such a designation signifies.
All universities must be constantly renewed. This is especially acute for a young university like UT Dallas. We must act as though we are serial entrepreneurs with startups.
By the way, every startup requires founders. You, too, are a founder of this university, and of the most important start-up – you.
Some of you are first-generation college students. You are founders.
For others, it may have been your mother or father who was the first in your family to attend college. They, too, were founders.
Consider this. We are all founders, because education transforms the world around us.
Maybe that sounds like a grand statement, but I find it appropriate for UT Dallas.
Each of you has contributed to more than our growth. Your impact has been felt beyond our campus boundaries.
- You mentored your peers or helped schoolchildren in the community.
- You tutored senior citizens, tended the community gardens.
- You volunteered at local agencies.
- You competed across the country in the athletic arena.
- More than a few of you managed to raise families and hold down jobs while fulfilling the requirements to be seated here today.
I applaud your determination to balance being a student with having a life outside of the classroom and laboratory.
And now, you will be a founder with big dreams for your future and society’s future.
Take pride in that. As you make decisions about your life when you leave us, I urge you to live in the answer to “what can you do with what you know.”
Congratulations, Comets. We are proud of you. Enjoy this special day and all that comes after.