President Riggs Welcome & Charge

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Good morning, and welcome to the one hundred seventy-sixth commencement exercises of Gettysburg College.   And, of course, a very special welcome to the Class of 2011 and to their families and friends.  Congratulations!!

This wonderful place never feels better than it does on a day like today-when families, faculty, staff, alumni, trustees, distinguished guests, and friends come together to celebrate our graduates.  

However, in the midst of this celebration, we acknowledge there are mixed emotions. Some of you graduates have told me that you could not wait for this day to come-but more of you have said that this day brings with it some real sadness as you say good bye to a place that has been your home for the last few years, to friends who have become family, to faculty and staff who have nurtured and mentored you. 

I have to say that we here in this community feel some sadness as well.  We will miss you!  But we're also very proud to send you on your way, knowing that great things are ahead. 

Because we believe in you.  We believe you will go forth from Gettysburg and do great things-some of you through discoveries of things not yet known to us, some with new ideas and perspectives, some through public service, some with creative works, some with innovation and entrepreneurship, and some of you through a series of everyday acts of kindness...We believe in you.  

And now I'd like to take a moment to acknowledge some important people who are here today.  First, my faculty colleagues.

Of primary importance at Gettysburg is the relationship between faculty member and student. This is the hallmark of a liberal arts education. Our faculty have profound impact on our students' lives. They have taught, mentored, inspired, and cared very much for and about this class. 

Faculty colleagues, would you please stand if you are able?  Graduates, would you please join me in expressing your appreciation for the faculty who have worked with you during your four years here.

Next I'd like to acknowledge our staff at Gettysburg College who do so much on a daily basis to support and inspire our students.  Could I ask members of the College administration and support staff to stand.  Please join me in thanking members of our staff for their tireless efforts in support of our students.

Next, some representatives of our Board of Trustees are with us today up here on the platform.  Would you please stand?  These are individuals who give generously of their time, talents, and resources to ensure that the College provides students with a world-class liberal arts education. Would you all please join me in thanking our trustees for their leadership.

And finally, last but certainly not least, I'd like to acknowledge the families of the Class of 2011.  Last year two of my children graduated from college, and I certainly understand the pride that many families are feeling today.  Graduates, your families have cheered you on, supported you, and believed in you, even when you might not have believed in yourself. Would our graduates' families please stand?  Graduates, please join me in expressing your appreciation for the love and support your families have offered during the last four years.

Class of 2011, an excellent education truly requires a community effort, and all of these people we have just recognized have played a role in helping you to get to this day. 

And now I'd ask you to take a moment and remember back to when your class first assembled here for convocation just four years ago.  You sat right where you sit today.  Your class flag was flown over Pennsylvania Hall. Today it flies again, signifying the end of your undergraduate experience. We know that Gettysburg College has left its mark on you, but we want you to know that you also have left a mark on Gettysburg College.  To symbolize that enduring connection, you'll have an opportunity later in the ceremony to sign your Class Book after you have received your diplomas, and this book will be permanently placed in the Norris-Wachob Alumni House.  You may be graduating today, but you will always be a Gettysburgian. 

Today is a big day - a day of celebration and reflection, of hope and inspiration.  Take it all in-the pomp and circumstance, the speeches, the reading of your classmates' names.  All of us are here today for you, the class of 2011, and we are happy to share this day with you. 


It is my great honor to deliver a charge to the Class of 2011.  I know you will be grateful that my charge to you is brief.  But that doesn't mean it's easy.

You have received a Gettysburg College education and that education is among the best offered in this country.  I charge every one of you to build on your Gettysburg education in a way that will make a positive difference in the lives of others, whom you know well and whom you do not know well.   If you work in health care---as a physician or a physical therapist or a nurse practitioner, give your patients your expertise, but also treat your patients with compassion.  If you work in the area of public policy, keep the big picture in mind and promote policies that really will advance the greater good of our citizenry.   If you are working in a business-large or small---be entrepreneurial and creative.  But also carry your work out with integrity.  And consider the impact of your company's practices and policies on employees, on the neighborhood, and on the environment.

Whatever you go on to do, I want you to remember that even in a world of technology, we are all people---and we must care for each other and for our communities and for the world in which we live.   That is your charge.

And now, Class of 2011, it is your time to shine!  My best wishes go with every one of you.  Congratulations!"