President Alison Byerly presented her farewell remarks to graduating seniors at Lafayette’s 182nd Commencement.

Listen to her speech:

The text of her speech:

It is a privilege to close this ceremony by offering a few brief words of my own to the graduating class. The Class of 2017 is very special to me. Over the last week, several of you have told me that you remember my saying at your opening Convocation in the fall of 2013 that we were all first-years together. You are the first class I have seen all the way through Lafayette, and we have shared many experiences, from highlights like the 150th Lafayette-Lehigh game in Yankee Stadium, to less high lights, like last year’s norovirus. We saw the opening of the Oechsle Center for Global Education, and the Williams Arts Campus on Third Street. You helped us to celebrate the anniversary of 150 years of engineering at Lafayette. Some of you got to meet Tom Hanks when he was here a year ago, or spent time with Joe Maddon when he visited here last fall. We also shared some losses that brought us closer together.

I have gotten to know you in a variety of ways. I have worked with you in your roles as campus leaders: student government officers, editors for The Lafayette, fraternity and sorority presidents, student activists interested in issues of race, gender, and equality who have worked to make Lafayette stronger. You include student-athletes on teams I have cheered on many times over the last four years; members of the Pep Band, cheerleaders, dance team, Chamber Choir or a cappella groups. I’ve watched you in performances from Frankenstein 2029 to The Secret Garden and Metamorphoses, in the election night broadcast and in poster presentations on sustainability. Several of you were students in the class I taught last spring. Others are Admissions ambassadors, student workers for dining services who help with catered events, or are familiar just because our paths cross in front of Farinon when I walk to my office in the morning. I will miss you all.

Much of this ceremony focuses on individual achievement, and it is appropriate that those achievements be celebrated. In addition to those students honored with Lafayette awards, we are very proud of the accomplishments of the Lafayette students who this year won significant national recognition, including four Fulbright fellowships, two Goldwater fellowships, one Erasmus Mundus scholarship, 1 Schwartzmann scholarship, one Amgen Scholarship, and three National Science Foundation graduate research fellowships won by recent alums.

At the same time, I hope that you will all feel collective pride in what you have accomplished as a community.  Most of the special events mentioned a moment ago were team efforts in which every participant played a key role, including the audiences who came out to support their friends. Others of you came together this year in a spirit of activism to stimulate dialogue on important and difficult issues on the national stage. In April, dozens of you participated in Lafapalooza, a day of community service that made its mark in projects all across Easton.  In each of these cases, success was a result not just of individual talent, but of the strength of the Lafayette community.

We spoke earlier in the ceremony about the importance of our unique heritage and our connection to the Marquis de Lafayette. To me, a key dimension of the Lafayette ideal is the fact that the college is named after a man who shaped his own identity and chose his own destiny. Lafayette was not required to fight in the American Revolution. His decision to board the Hermione and travel from France to join forces with Washington was based entirely on his affinity for the ideals of liberty and self-determination that the revolutionary cause represented.

I believe that the choice made by the citizens of Easton to embrace the Lafayette ideal explains the unique spirit of Lafayette College. It is a place that reflects, and fosters, a powerful sense of self-determination.  It is a place that asks you to seek an ideal, and live up to it.  We hope that as you go out into the world, and define your own path, you will see in the spirit of Lafayette an example to follow.

We hope, too, that wherever your voyage takes you, you will continue to be sustained by the strength of the Lafayette community: by the faculty who mentored you, the staff who supported you, and the friends that you have made.  Though today you may leave Lafayette College, you will never leave Lafayette behind.

I hope that you will stay in touch and come back often. Congratulations and best wishes to you all.

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