The following address was presented by Christopher Tinsley '13 on May 18, 2013 at the 120th Commencement before to the Class of 2013 on the grounds of Saint Anselm College.
Father Jonathan, Abbot Mark, Bishop Joseph and the Benedictine Community, Bishop Libasci, Members of the Board of Trustees, Honorary degree recipients, faculty, staff, parents, relatives, friends, my parents,...the gracious staff of Watoy... and, most importantly, my fellow classmates, welcome to Saint Anselm College's 120th commencement celebration.
It is an honor to be the student representative of the Class of 2013. When I discovered a month ago that I would have the opportunity to speak at graduation, I devoted the same amount of time, energy, and intensity in preparation that many of you demonstrated while writing your senior thesis...And so late last night I began. The following is a carefully crafted, un-plagiarized summation of a Wikipedia page on commencement speeches. I hope you enjoy.
This opportunity enables me, on behalf of the entire class, to express our sincerest gratitude to the faculty members of the Saint Anselm community for your unwavering commitment to the betterment and expansion of our intellectual capacities. You showed us that the term "office hours" is a flexible one. You inspired us to engage and participate, whether in an 8:30 Humanities seminar or in a late-night pub conversation. You didn't just teach- you taught us how to think for ourselves and communicate our ideas effectively, skills that will prove invaluable in the years to come. You have given us many of the tools necessary to pursue and achieve our dreams and, because of your efforts, we have reached a significant milestone in our lives. Thank you.
And since Saint Anselm is a close-knit mosaic of people and relationships, the Class of 2013 wishes to thank the members of the community who have played monumental roles in our undergraduate experience. Campus Ministry. Dining Services. Physical plant. Information Technology. Staff in the Academic Resource Center. Campus security. Athletic coaches and staff. Each and every person on this campus contributes to a tangible sense of community and solidarity that is ubiquitous from the moment we arrive as dazed-and-confused freshmen. And since today is also a day of dedication and remembrance, we acknowledge two members that the Saint Anselm community has lost during our four-year journey: George Gendron, the beloved custodian of Cushing Hall whose remarkably optimistic attitude and generosity of spirit made studying slightly less strenuous, and Jeanne Kenison, former chairperson of the Economics and Business Department, whose consummate leadership left her department and Saint Anselm a better place. Both are with us in spirit today.
Now, all of us are aware of the increasingly competitive atmosphere surrounding undergraduate institutions in the United States. Parents and high-school students, faced with the difficult decision of choosing a single college or university amongst a myriad of choices, often consult research publications of school rankings for guidance. These publications offer a thorough economic analysis of several institutions, considering factors such as the percentage of recent graduates who are employed, student debt-to-first-year salary ratios, and various other job-placement statistics that are convincingly supported by advanced economic methodologies that likely only Einstein and Professor Miller could understand.
These statistics, of course, serve a purpose and can be helpful in highlighting the realistic economic implications of attending college. However, it is important not to be so dazzled by statistical data so as to miss the bigger picture. Make no mistake, Saint Anselm College has bestowed on all of us an incredible treasure of academic acumen and knowledge that will serve us well no matter which career path or future endeavor we choose to pursue.
This shared treasure is an important foundation, but it is not the most important asset we will carry forward. Saint Anselm recognizes that, ultimately, the best way to prepare its students for future success is to focus on the biggest determinant of success: You. The person. The individual. We have studied the paragons of human achievement and the attributes humanity shares. In our philosophy courses, we have challenged our intellect and reasoning in the pursuit of identifying universal truths and moral codes to guide us. In our theology studies, rich in the tradition of Saint Benedict, we have gained an appreciation for what it means to have been made "in the image and likeness of God" and to serve others with humility and love.
The Association for Benedictine Colleges and Universities declares that:
"A Benedictine education sets its sights on the transformation of the human mind and heart...stresses the formation of the whole person rather than the intellect alone... and calls for a lively interplay between rigorous thinking and the development of practices for right living." College rankings can NOT measure that. Statistical data can NOT describe the value of an education centered on the human person, an education that helps us answer the more fundamental questions concerning the purpose of human existence. The fact that you're here today testifies that you've lived and experienced the bigger picture.
My father in particular cherishes the values of a liberal arts education and consistently reminded his children that "everything important in life comes through people." Through people. No education could have better prepared us for this reality than Saint Anselm College. Keep in mind the lessons of Achilles. Of Moses. Of Socrates and Aristotle. Of Saint Anselm and Aquinas. Of Leo Tolstoy and Adam Smith... Of George Gendron... Of Jeanne Kenison. If we take what these people have taught us and apply it in the service of others, we will be amazed with God's potency of goodness.
My graduation here today is very nearly the completion of a dream. My mother died suddenly when I was 3 years old. It had been her dream to see all seven of her boys receive a Catholic liberal arts education. Well Mom, after today, one more to go.
We in the Class of 2013 are mindful that when we depart here today, Father Jonathan is departing with us. Today, he will hand out his last diploma. His retirement marks the end of 24 years of extraordinary, historic service and we pray that he will be part of this Saint Anselm Community for decades to come. Father Jonathan, although your tenure ends this year, your vision for Saint Anselm and higher education marches forward. We are honored to be the last graduating class under your leadership.
And to the Class of 2013, let's prove that Father Jonathan saved his best for last!