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2018 Baccalaureate Remarks

Saturday, May 19, 2018 | 3 p.m.
John Dickinson Campus

Remarks of President Margee Ensign

I am so happy to be with you on this joyous occasion.

I suspect all of us here (today), and certainly all of our graduating seniors, are straining to look ahead in the hope of catching a glimpse of an unpredictable future. No longer undergraduates, now what?

We are here to celebrate and to encourage you. Encourage is a good word, that, because the future will require courage.

We “encourage” you to proceed into that future moment by moment, step by step, with well-founded confidence, secure in the knowledge that you are a Dickinsonian, and you are prepared.

During this last year, I myself have had a chance to look into many Dickinsonian rearview mirrors. Many of you have shared your experiences here with me, and I have spent much of my time traveling all around the country to meet close to 2,000 of our alumni. Alumni eager, all of them, to share their memories of their beloved college with its new president.

This voyage has been a truly uplifting experience.

What I have seen has been a remarkable range of successful, well-lived lives—lives launched here from Dickinson. Scientists and artists, doctors and teachers, social workers and bankers and singers and writers and government officials and dancers. Diplomats, bankers and environmentalists.

Dickinson alumni represent precisely the range of interests that we have come to expect, and have experienced, here on this liberal-arts campus, a place
where so many different sorts of talents are nurtured and shared.

I came away from these alumni meetings energized, with renewed respect for the role Dickinson College has played in the lives of so many of its students. I
came away with a great faith in you all, and in your futures.

Every age has had its own unique set of challenges. And in their time, these challenges appeared daunting, unprecedented and sometimes insurmountable.

Yet each age has also had its own ideas and technologies, knowledge and skills, its institutions and its extraordinary individuals, all poised to confront those challenges and to forge a new future.

We live in a world, for all its ills, a world that is transformed daily by astonishing discoveries and innovations, the spread of unprecedented global prosperity, improved health and longevity. Progress. Progress only made possible by knowledge and by courage.

We live in a world that seems to focus only on the problems—and there are many, but please leave here remembering that we have made more progress in improving human life—measured by life expectancy—in the past 60 years, more progress that we had in the previous 600 years. We all need your education and skills and commitment for that progress to continue.

You are a Dickinsonian. You are prepared to achieve that progress.

Just as our founder, Dr. Rush, intended, you have been educated to understand the complexity and the beauty of our world from many perspectives, as life-long learners who can work with others, who can consider many points of view.

You are people who will seek and be open to new insights and to new truths. And to challenge them, too. You have received an education where truth is vigorously sought and treasured, freedom of speech and of inquiry cherished. Never, never underestimate its value. For this is the sort of place, you the sort of people, upon which our futures must be built.

We know that working together, you will help to create a better future for us all, a new common good. I have already seen you at work doing just this.

When I arrived here, I asked to be shown Dickinson’s community involvement programs: I was presented with 22 pages of them! You have been teaching children, writing business plans, improving the sustainability of the environment, feeding the poor, enriching the cultural life of our community. You have learned and you have been empowered with that new knowledge, you have taken responsibility and you have acted.

So, let me pass on to you some encouragement from one of my own great heroes, Eleanor Roosevelt: “In the long run there is no more liberating, no more exhilarating experience than to determine one’s position, state it bravely, and then act boldly. Action brings with it its own courage, its own energy, a growth of self-confidence that can be acquired in no other way.”

Seniors—determine your positions, state them bravely and then act boldly. Today’s ceremony and Commencement weekend are not only about celebration of the conclusion of your undergraduate careers, but reflection about who you were, who you have become, where your Dickinson journey has taken you—with all of its twists and turns. It is also a time for you to reflect upon the people who have crossed your path, who have made a difference in your life and on this campus. Legacy Watkins is one of those people.

Legacy’s passing was a profound loss for our students and campus—she was beloved by many and though I did not know her personally, I am touched by the stories and memories that have been shared with me.

Legacy was, quite simply, one of a kind. Her friendships transcended social groups or divisions—her intellectual pursuits extended beyond the boundaries of the Africana Studies program.

She made deep and lasting contributions as a member of the Carlisle community and in her hometown of Trenton, New Jersey. Her ability to connect person-to-person, showing empathy and care, are examples of why so many friends, old and new, gravitated toward Legacy’s light. Her positivity and good nature were contagious—she had a rare ability to touch people’s hearts.

It is my honor to memorialize Legacy with this certificate and these words: “Legacy Watkins could light up a room with her smile and the brilliance of her character. She was a ray of sunshine who brightened the days and lives of friends, family, countless children and young adults mentored through her community service. As a CommServ coordinator for Hope Station, multicultural ambassador for the Office of Admissions, and a member of the Black Student Union and MOB, Legacy shared her light and her spirit with all those in her presence, making Dickinson a better place for students both today and tomorrow. We, as a community, are blessed and privileged for the gifts Legacy shared with us, and she will live on in our hearts as a true Dickinsonian for all time.”

I invite Koffee Watkins-Merrick and William Merrick, Legacy’s mother and stepfather, to the platform to accept this recognition of Legacy’s accomplishments.

A tree has been planted in Legacy’s honor, to remind us of how special she will always remain to our community. Immediately following the Baccalaureate ceremony, there will be a tree dedication ceremony in front of Old West. All are invited to attend.

With memories of Legacy to nourish and sustain us, I now invite Morgan Bates ’18 to offer a musical reflection, “Fanfare for the Women.”