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President Arthur J. Rothkopf ’55 made the following farewell remarks to the Class of 2005 at the 170th Commencement today:

Let me begin by saying how touched and grateful Barbara and I are to have been awarded honorary degrees. It’s an incredibly humbling experience, especially since we both feel that Lafayette and the many, many friends we’ve made here have given us so much more than we could ever have given to the College. This has been a labor of love, and we feel privileged to have been called to serve.

This is of course a very special afternoon for the GREAT Class of 2005, as well. You’ve been a wonderful class, and your idealism, your sense of limitless possibilities, and your achievements are at the core of what this college is about. Our celebration of your accomplishments is made even more festive and meaningful by the colorful flags surrounding the Quad. Members of the Lafayette student body come from 53 nations, and we thought it would be fitting to reinforce the close connection between the campus and those countries by displaying their flags as we honor our graduating seniors.

This is also a special occasion for the families of our graduates. Our seniors have reached this major milestone not only through their own hard work but also because they’ve been able to count on their parents, grandparents, and others who have made significant contributions through their love, encouragement, and personal sacrifice. This ceremony is their celebration, too, and I know how grateful our seniors are to them. Would the Class of 2005 please join me in applauding all of those who have supported and encouraged them over the past four years.

Because this is the last Lafayette commencement in which I will participate as president, I feel even more compelled than usual to take the long view. On these occasions I always think back to my own graduation and the complex range of emotions I experienced then: euphoria and sadness; nervousness and relief. But the memories are even more vivid now because my classmates and I will be celebrating our 50th Reunion in two weeks. (Let me say that 50 years go by very quickly.)

Rather than becoming too nostalgic about a Lafayette graduation that occurred half-a-century ago, however, let me shift my focus even farther back and mention that there is someone here today whose presence honors a graduate from the Class of 1905. The member of that class was Joseph Burton Wiley. Such were the realities of those times that Mr. Wiley had to teach school before he enrolled at Lafayette, in order to raise enough money to attend. Once here he made excellent use of the academic opportunities and also played football and baseball. His degree from Lafayette, which he supplemented with an M.A. from the Teachers College at Columbia, positioned him well for an outstanding career as a high-school teacher and administrator.

Knowing how much Lafayette has changed since 1955, I can barely imagine what the College must have been like for Mr. Wiley and his class a hundred years ago. To put things into perspective: the esteemed Prof. Francis A. March, in tribute to whom this plaza was recently named, was still actively teaching. I also know that Lafayette’s impact on Mr. Wiley was so special that his son, Joseph B. Wiley, Jr., contacted me about attending this ceremony. He wanted to be with us today as a way of honoring his father as a member of Lafayette’s centennial class. We are of course delighted to welcome him. Mr. Wiley, would you please stand and be recognized?

In taking the “long view,” I’ve looked back 50 and 100 years. But the long view that’s most relevant to today’s seniors involves facing forward. When I graduated I didn’t have a long view. I knew my immediate plans. But if a crystal ball had foretold my return to Lafayette as a trustee and then as president, I would have checked for cracks and changed the channel.

With the value of half-a-century’s accidental wisdom, let me simply say that the portion of my career that has been devoted to government and non-profit service has been by far the most satisfying and rewarding. There is so much more to life than accumulating wealth and flashy perks, as the careers of Tom Ridge, Brian Lamb, and Dorothy Blaney attest. I know that the three of them join with me in encouraging each graduate today to seek out opportunities for meaningful involvement and service wherever and whenever you can.

Based on my observations over the past four years, I have ample evidence that service to others already ranks among your priorities. It’s inseparable from the “Lafayette ideal,” as is evident from Pepper Prize winner Oliver Bowen’s involvement with Kids in the Community, the Boys & Girls Club, tutoring, and other community-service initiatives. Just about every one of our graduates today understands the satisfaction Oliver has gotten from those activities because you’ve taken part in similar programs and know how rewarding they can be.

I especially urge you to remain involved with your college. Because you have already made such important contributions as individuals and as a class, we have every confidence that you will continue to participate enthusiastically and thoughtfully in the life of this wonderful community.

To conclude, let me just say CONGRATULATIONS, CLASS OF 2005! You are now officially daughters and sons of Lafayette! Celebrate your accomplishments with joy and with satisfaction. Accept the well-deserved hugs and handshakes from your proud families. And continue to give the very best of yourselves to your college, to your communities, and to your world.

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