President Riggs Welcome & Charge

Good morning, and welcome to the one hundred and seventy-seventh commencement exercises of Gettysburg College. And, of course, a very special welcome to the Class of 2012 and to their families and friends. Congratulations!!

Gettysburg College never feels better than it does on a day like today — when families, faculty, staff, alumni, trustees, distinguished guests, and friends gather 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 guided 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.

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 members of the Class of 2012.

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

Of primary importance at Gettysburg is the relationship between faculty member and student. This is the keystone of a liberal arts education. Our faculty have profound impact on our students’ lives. They have taught, mentored, inspired, and cared for members of 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.

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 if able? Please join me in thanking members of our staff for their tireless efforts.

Next, some representatives of our Board of Trustees are with us today up here on the platform. 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 please stand? 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 2012. Graduates, your families have cheered you on, supported you, and believed in you, even when you might not have believed in yourself. They are very proud of your accomplishments. Would our graduates’ families please stand if able? Graduates, please join me in expressing your appreciation for the love and support your families have offered during the last four years.

Class of 2012, 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 and leaving here today, but you will always be a Gettysburgian.

It is a big day for all of you. It is 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 2012, and we are happy to share this day with you.



It is my great honor to deliver a charge to the Class of 2012. I can tell you that my charge will be brief, and that should please you. But for me, sending off this class is no easy task.

And that’s because your class is very special to me personally. I was Gettysburg College’s interim president when you arrived on campus in 2008 and I was appointed its president during your first year. I feel like we’ve been on a journey together. I’ve had the good fortune to meet many of you in this class, and to get to know some of you very well. When I’ve had a challenging moment in this job, I have turned to you for inspiration and hope—and you have not let me down. You have buoyed my spirits. You have stretched my imagination. You have reminded me of what is truly important. I am going to miss this class, the Class of 2012, very, very much. You have touched me in more ways than you can possibly know.

And what has touched me most is your idealism in a world that is full of skeptics and nay-sayers. And your willingness to step out of your comfort zones, to be adventurous in a world that has become cautious and guarded in the shadow of 9-11. You are bucking the trends, and that inspires me.

So my charge to you is to hold onto that spirit you have carried with you as a class these four years. Continue to buck the trends with your idealism and your willingness to step into an uncomfortable space. The challenges this world faces are large—but they can be solved by those who believe they can be solved and by those who are willing to take some risks. They can be solved by you and by people like you.

And now, Class of 2012, this is your time to shine. My best wishes go with every one of you. Congratulations!