"It's your time to move into legend and lore"

Excerpts from physics Prof. Sharon Stephenson's 2018 Special Commencement Ceremony remarks to men's and women's lacrosse

Prof. Sharon Stephenson

I was 10 years at Gettysburg College when you first showed up in one of my classes. My husband and I would bring our two toddlers to hoot and holler for Jimmy Gates ’07, #29. He was indeed a fierce mythical beast.

What happens to us—as observers—when we watch you fierce mythical beasts do your thing on Shirk and Clark Field?

Scientists believe that humans have what are called “mirror neurons” in our brains. They fire up the same way regardless of whether we are moving our bodies or just watching someone else move their bodies. This phenomenon is called kinesthetic empathy.

We are more than just observers of your mythology, of your hero’s walk. In a minor way,we walk the path, too.

Soon you will no longer be on Clark or Shirk Field. You will be in the stands with us, the mortals.

There is melancholy and longing when a typical student graduates from college. But a fierce mythical beast is not typical. You will leave fire and ash in your wake. I do not envy the sadness you will feel in the coming months. But I respect the many things you have done to earn the right to feel such a heavy loss.

I assume, 11 years ago, a similar sense of finality was felt by midfielder Jimmy Gates. Jimmy now goesby James and he is an oral surgeon in Philadelphia.You are about to become the athletic ancestry for others to follow, others like my most recent lacrosse student, defender Joe Sokolowski ’20, #32.

But this is not his story because it is not his time.It is your time, the time for this group of fierce mythical beasts to move into legend and lore.


Prof. Sharon Stephenson is the W. K. T. Sahm Professor of Physics and chair of the physics department at Gettysburg College. Special Commencement honors graduating student athletes whose successful postseason sports schedule prevents them from attending regular Commencement.