President Riggs Welcome & Charge

Gettysburg College never feels better than it does on Commencement day — when families, faculty, staff, alumni, trustees, distinguished guests, and friends gather to celebrate our graduates.  

However, in the midst of this celebration, I know that some members of the class of 2013 have mixed emotions. There’s a sense of excitement about what’s ahead and a sense of pride in all that you’ve accomplished here.  But some of you have told me that this day also brings with it some real sadness as you say goodbye 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 I share those mixed feelings.  It’s a little hard for me personally to send you on your way, because I feel a special attachment to the class of 2013.  I welcomed you all to Gettysburg College at your Convocation ceremony right here in August of 2009. Your class flag flew over the cupola as it does today.  And a month after I welcomed you, many of you came out to welcome me during my inauguration as Gettysburg College’s new president.  A lot of you were here---and I remember Rice Hall in particular cheering me on.  I don’t know if you realize what a lift you gave me that day.  Your support meant so much.  And so I feel like I’ve been on a journey with you over the last four years, a journey that we’ve shared. I’ve gotten to know many of you as individuals, and I have a sense of you as a class, the class of 2013.  And I will miss you. 

But I’m also very excited about your future, because I have tremendous confidence in you.  And all of those here today share that confidence and look forward to the great work you will do beyond Gettysburg, the impact you will have----some of you through discoveries, some through new ideas and perspectives, some through public service or advocacy, some through creative works, some through innovation and entrepreneurship, and, I hope, all of you through a series of everyday acts of kindness. We believe in you, members of the Class of 2013.

And now I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge those who have supported you on this Gettysburg College journey. 

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 at Gettysburg College. Our faculty have had a profound impact on your lives. They have taught, mentored, inspired, and cared for each member of this class. 

Faculty colleagues, would you please stand if you are able?  Would our graduates please join me in expressing your appreciation for the faculty.

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 Gettysburg can continue to provide students with a world-class liberal arts education. Trustees, would you please stand?  Graduates and families, please join me in thanking our trustees for their leadership.

And last, but certainly not least, I’d like to acknowledge the families of the Class of 2013. 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 you are able?  Graduates, please join me in expressing your appreciation for the love and support your families have offered you before and during your time at Gettysburg. [applause] 

It’s a big day for the class of 2013. It’s 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 2013, and we are happy and proud to share this day with you. 




It is my great honor to deliver a charge to the Class of 2013. I know that you’re ready for this ceremony to conclude—so I promise this charge will be brief!

This is a significant year in Gettysburg, as you know.  2013 marks the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg and Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.  It’s an important time to consider our nation’s past and to look with hope towards the future.  And my hope rests with all of you, members of the Class of 2013.

Here at Gettysburg you have received a very high quality liberal arts education.  You have completed a series of academic courses that have spanned many disciplines, that have been designed to enhance your critical thinking skills and your ability to address complex issues.  You have learned to communicate effectively, and you have been given the tools to take a global perspective.  You have engaged in public service, you have competed on playing fields, you have participated in and led student organizations, you have studied abroad, you have performed on stages.  Your experience here has prepared you for lives of impact.

So my charge to you is simple.  Use what you’ve learned here.

Wherever you are, whatever you do, you can make a difference.  You can offer solutions to problems, you can treat colleagues with compassion, you can find a better way of getting a task done, you can offer a helping hand, you can start a business, you can serve as a role model, you can write or perform music, you can counsel and support the mentally ill, you can represent someone in court, you can work towards a cure for disease, you can run for public office, you can manufacture or sell a product that will make someone’s life easier or happier. 

Whatever you do, wherever you live, you can infuse into your work and your community high aspirations, good will, compassion and respect for others, and integrity. Class of 2013, we are all counting on you to make a difference—and you will.

Class of 2013, this is your time to shine.  My best wishes go with every one of you.  Congratulations!