Midyear Graduate Recognition Ceremony – December 14, 2022

December 14, 2022
President Robert W. Iuliano
Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

Greetings and Opening Comments

Welcome families, friends, and fellow Gettysburgians. We are here this evening to honor and to celebrate a remarkable group of seniors and all that they have achieved as members of this community.

To our graduates, let me extend to you a warm welcome and a hearty congratulations on this special day in your lives.

We have nearly 40 graduates who will walk across the stage this evening. Seniors who have authored a Gettysburg story that is uniquely their own; who have dedicated themselves to excellence, and experienced the joys and success that so often comes from collaboration and hard work; and who have persevered and overcome in the midst of unforeseen challenges, all to arrive at this moment.

Graduates, you have earned this moment. Every one of you. And we are incredibly proud of you.

Of course, as is true for so many of the milestones in our lives, we don’t reach them alone. It is only through the love, support, and encouragement of those around us that we can truly realize our fullest potential.

So with that, at this time—graduates—I would invite you to please stand, turn to your loved ones here tonight, and offer them your deepest thanks for all they’ve done to help you along the way.

Let’s give them a big round of applause!

Seniors, I know how much this ceremony means to you. But I also know, from personal experience having watched my two sons cross the stage at their graduation ceremonies, how much this day means to your parents and to your families.

Seemingly overnight, they witnessed you go from an unsteady child—teetering as you first learned to ride a bike—to a self-assured graduate, who has gracefully balanced the rigors of a college education. And who now stands poised to take on the world and pursue your dreams.

I’ve seen this with my own boys. My youngest, Ben, went from playing video games to now leading teams in the video game industry. Suffice it to say that among his game-playing friends, Ben has a dream job.

And for my oldest son, Jeff, his dream has involved studying the early universe as a post-doctorate fellow at the University of Pennsylvania.

In thinking about Jeff’s study of the universe, I see similarities to the historic chapter you have lived during your time at the College.

I’d like us to take this opportunity tonight to reflect on your Gettysburg experience and the meaning and wisdom we can draw from it, as you prepare to take your next step forward.

Let me ask you this: how often do you look up to the night sky?

On a clear night, you will see the shimmering of planets, stars, and constellations, and it is easy to assume—in all of its wonder—that the universe itself is timeless. That it has always been exactly as we see it today.

It can certainly feel that way from our humble vantage point.

But, of course, our universe is far from static. It is ever-changing. It even has its own origin story. We call it the Big Bang, and if you look closely—at what is known as the cosmic microwave background, what my son studies—you can rewind the clock 14 billion years to the very beginning.

In fact, when you look back far enough, you discover that the greatest disruption our universe has ever known is precisely what led to its greatest growth, its greatest change, its greatest expansion—all of which has shaped what we see before us today.

So, why do I share this with you, on the day of your midyear graduation?

Soon enough, you will have people looking up to you. Many of you already do. Perhaps a neighbor or a colleague or a Gettysburg student. Maybe even a child of your own one day.

They will see your empathy. Your teamwork. Your creativity and adaptability. Your strength in the face adversity. They will see the person you are—the person you’ve become—and they may assume you’ve naturally always been this way.

It is important that they know that these enduring skills can be learned.

Like the early universe, the ingredients that make you uniquely you have always been there. This is true. But you have never been static. You’ve never stood still.

You too are ever-changing, and the catalyst for your growth—what has taken those ingredients and helped to form you into who you are today—are the very people in this room, and the experiences you’ve shared together.

All you need to do is look back to the beginning.

It’s your parents who ran alongside you, stabilized you on that first bike ride and through so much more—who cheered for you as you embarked solo and comforted you in those moments you fell, and who ultimately motivated you to get back up and try again.

It’s your soccer coach or art teacher in middle school who saw something special in you and chose to fan the flame.

It’s your friends and classmates and teammates here at Gettysburg, who brought out the very best in you and inspired you to reach across difference and see others from a new perspective.

It’s your devoted faculty who invested in you and challenged you, who treated you as a contributing colleague and welcomed you into a shared field of study.

It’s the First-Year Walk and Thanksgiving Dinner and Burgburst, and the many traditions we celebrate as a community that bring us closer together.

And for this group of remarkable seniors, it is even confronting a global pandemic—the greatest disruptor any of us have ever known—and as a result, developing the heart and mindset to bring about your greatest growth, your greatest change, your greatest expansion…in how you view the world and your higher purpose in it. And in your ability to surmount whatever challenges lie ahead.

Graduates, it is the people and the experience we gain in life that make us who we are, and I hope you’ve encountered the best of both here at Gettysburg—and that you’ll take them forever with you.

I likewise hope you’ll look back on these years as the start of something special—a consequential life, and developing into the person we know you can become.

Again, on behalf of our entire community, we wish you the very best and look forward to hearing about all that you will accomplish in the years to come. Congratulations!

The Charge to the Midyear Graduates

At Gettysburg College, we promise every student a personal education. And seeing each of you cross the stage tonight, it is clear just how personal this experience has been for you.

In reflecting on Professor Monani’s poignant message this evening, I am reminded of a quote attributed to various composers, including Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Claude Debussy: “The music is not in the notes, but in the silence between.”

Graduates, my charge to you tonight is to heed Professor Monani’s advice and remember to pause.

Your life is sure to be filled with opportunities and challenges, triumphs and shortcomings, ups and downs. The silence between is what helps us to bring clarity to our past—and meaning to our present. Embrace these moments of pause and reflection, and allow them to guide you as you shape your future.

Graduates, this is your time. Take all that you’ve learned here and go forth to Do Great Work in your communities, in your workplaces, and out in the world.

We believe in you, and we always will.

Now, to conclude our ceremony, I would invite our families, friends, and entire community here this evening to join me in giving one final round of applause for our newest Gettysburg College graduates! Congratulations!