A Defining Moment for the University and its Graduates
Executive Dean Douglas Greenberg addressed an audience of more than 30,000 that included dignitaries, faculty, staff, and most importantly, the Class of 2012 and their families, at the 246th Anniversary Commencement on May 13, 2012. He stressed the role of the arts and sciences in preparing each student from every unit at Rutgers for the future awaiting them. Dean Greenberg will also be addressing the George Mason University College of Humanities and Social Sciences Class of 2012 on Friday, May 18. Read more about his upcoming appearance here.
The liberal arts and sciences are the essential core of all undergraduate education at Rutgers. Every undergraduate who receives a degree today – from whatever School she or he may graduate – has taken at least one course in the arts and sciences, a course that I know all of you remember with great fondness and sentiment: Expository Writing. But many others among you have also taken courses in mathematics and in chemistry, in history and in English, in computer science and in physics, in philosophy and in the languages, and in all the 40 departments of the School of Arts and Sciences. In an important sense, you are all graduates in the arts and sciences.
We hope that each of you, whatever your School, takes with you the open-minded, analytically acute, and thoughtful approach to knowledge and experience that the School of Arts and Sciences seeks to inspire. For those of you who today graduate with degrees in the arts and sciences disciplines, we hope you take with you both deep knowledge of one of them and a larger sense of the skills, understanding, and wisdom that you will need to lead productive and happy lives.
The School of Arts and Sciences is the largest academic unit in our university, and your graduation is a defining moment for us, just as it is for you.
There are almost 5,000 of you, which is why our convocation takes place here in the stadium rather than in a separate venue: only the stadium is big enough to hold all of you, but not even the stadium can contain our pride and the pride of your families and friends in what you have accomplished at Rutgers
Great universities have much of which to be proud: famous faculty members, astounding research, great libraries, magnificent laboratories, fine buildings, great athletic teams, and the list goes on. At the School of Arts and Sciences, however, we reserve our greatest pride for our students, for each and every one of you. You are something special, more special than you may realize. No graduating class in any university in this country is even close.
A third of you are the first in your family to graduate from college, half of you are the children or grandchildren of immigrants or are immigrants yourselves, you speak, among you, several dozen languages (and you didn’t learn them here), more than half of you identify yourselves as non-white, and most of you have had to struggle against the economic odds even to be at this University, never mind to stay here and to graduate from it.
You sit here in this great stadium today because, unlike so many undergraduates at other institutions, you actually know that your education counts for something important; it isn’t just the obvious next step in someone else’s plan of your life. You know this more profoundly than we do: you have proven for four years that you understand that what you have been doing here is the essential transformational opportunity of your entire life. As a Rutgers graduate myself, I can tell you that will be true for the rest of your life, not just today.
Each of you embodies the dream of unfettered democratic achievement that has been the center of this country’s aspirations for two and a half centuries. Although many young women and men will graduate from American colleges and universities over the next several weeks, none will have achieved more, none will have overcome more obstacles, and none will have so perfectly and so completely epitomized the utterly essential role of public higher education in a democracy as you have. We congratulate you today, but we also thank you for the honor of having accompanied you on your journey.
May I now ask those graduating with honors from the School of Arts and Sciences to stand?
These honors graduates of the School of Arts and Sciences represent the highest level of academic achievement that our School can offer. We recognize their accomplishments today with pride and with the certain knowledge that they depart Rutgers prepared for comparable accomplishment in the world beyond the university. We offer them our deepest congratulations and gratitude for having permitted us to spend these last few years in your presence.
Thank you. Please be seated.
Each member of the School of Arts and Sciences Class of 2012 leaves this place knowing that no one educates you, that real education is not what we have done to you these last four years but what you have done for yourselves. Your achievements in the classrooms and laboratories and libraries and outside them are truly breathtaking. Wherever you go and whatever you do after today, you will carry the name of your university with you and all of us here are proud that our name will be forever linked with yours.