Cory Spera ’15 delivered farewell remarks for the Class of 2015 during the 180th Commencement May 23, and in Lafayette tradition, presented the sword of the Marquis de Lafayette to his classmates. He is the recipient of the George Wharton Pepper Prize, awarded to the senior who “most closely represents the Lafayette ideal.” Spera, of Lorton, Va., graduated with a bachelor of science degree in biology. Read and listen to his speech below.
I was given two pieces of advice when I was informed that I would be speaking to you all today: one, keep it short because everyone will be hot and ready to leave, and two, check out some previous speeches of past winners to get some ideas about what I might want to talk about.
Well, after reading some rather eloquent remarks, I realized those speeches didn’t really fit my style, so I decided to go a different direction with mine, though I promise I will still keep it short.
After I wrote the first draft of my essay for my initial Pepper Prize nomination, I sought out some help from the toughest writing critic I’ve ever had, my mom. After reading it, she wasn’t sure why people would want to vote for me. Instead of expanding on my own accomplishments, I had instead focused on the positive effect my mentors had on me and how great my peers were.
Though I went back and edited my essay, the much-needed revision helped me realize that after four years of living in a welcoming city and neighborhood like Easton and College Hill, having gorgeous academic buildings with state-of-the-art equipment, and competing in impressive athletic facilities, what truly makes this college so special is the people I was surrounded by.
I certainly do not know everyone associated with the school and was not involved in every group and club, but I have been lucky enough to interact with a wide array of staff, faculty, and students at Lafayette and have learned so much from all of them.
I’ve learned that it doesn’t take much to make someone’s day, because a member of Dining Services remembering my usual sandwich order always made mine.
That there is a lot more to a happy life than just a job that you enjoy, because my research mentor started off everyday with a conversation about his kids, sports, and current events, despite having several important projects going on at once.
And that no matter how much I thought I was dealing with, there was probably a way for me to get it all done, because there was a football player out there dealing with multiple concussion symptoms while double majoring in French and biochemistry with a minor in Medieval Renaissance and Early Modern studies, all while finding a way to stay involved in campus activities, studying for the MCAT, and getting into medical school.
I cannot begin to explain the effect and positive change all of these people and more have had on me since I arrived on campus in August of 2011. I started college as a kind-hearted kid, but I am leaving as a more intelligent, informed, caring, confident, and passionate individual. And those were just a few of the lessons that I have personally learned.
I cannot imagine how many others those same individuals and more have touched and inspired throughout their time at Lafayette. Because of actions like these, I see why the slogan for the school’s new capital campaign is “Live Connected, Lead Change.”
Don’t worry, I am not up here to try and get you all to donate, though if you are interested, by all means, please feel free, but I do find these four words to be very relevant to all of us here today.
After I finish speaking, we will all be going our separate ways, but my hope is that we do not lose touch with all of the amazing relationships we have created over the past four years, whether they are with staff, faculty, or students, and that we can continue to live connected as a community, albeit there will be a little more geographic separation among us.
I also hope that each and every one of you, from Dining Services to research mentor to student-athlete, continues to build strong relationships and lead change by positively affecting others, just like you all have done for me.
Thank you for your time and congratulations to all the graduating members of the Class of 2015.