Fall Commencement 2017
December 15, 2017
Welcome to one of the proudest days of the year at Miami University. This is the day when we celebrate the remarkable accomplishments of our amazing students.
We celebrate all of the sweat and toil, all of the teaching and learning, that define Miami University. This is "Love and Honor" come to life.
Most of all, we celebrate all of you. To our graduates in the Class of 2017—you did it! We are proud of you for your perseverance, passion, dedication, and commitment. We are celebrating a significant achievement today. But this is not an end. This is a beginning. It's a foundation you will build upon for your career and the rest of your life.
I'm going to ask each of you to stand for two reasons: First, so we can recognize your achievement with a well-deserved round of applause.
Second, use this moment to turn around and take a look at the audience. Find your family and friends—those who have supported you every step of this journey. Maybe a professor, or an advisor, or a coach who has mentored you. That special person who uplifted your spirits in trying times. As we celebrate you, we also celebrate them. Give them a big round of applause in gratitude and appreciation for all they have done for you.
As a Miami graduate, you join more than 200 thousand living alumni around the world who proudly greet each other with "Love and Honor." They are more than just our graduates. They are carving out a special niche in the world through their leadership. You see, what Miami gives you is more than a degree saying that you finished a selection of courses. It is more than four years of study. It is more than socializing and sporting events and concerts—as wonderful as those things are.
What we hope for you is that you take away something from this education that is more difficult to measure—the ability to live out your character and intellect in the real world.
You are positioned to lead and to succeed in a life of higher purpose. You are equipped to make a positive impact on the world because of your Miami experience.
You may not see Miami's impact on your success right now. But as you get deep into your career ... or changing relationships with family and friends ... or even a volunteer experience that means a lot to you, you will see it come to life in vivid detail.
These intangible qualities are reflected around ALL of our campuses. We are a public state university with a global mindset and impactful mission. The names and values that signal our heritage are etched into buildings—top leaders in their fields and generous alumni, such as Armstrong and Farmer. The Armstrong Center displays the Code of Love and Honor on the wall to remind us of purpose and mission. The gates outside the Farmer School of Business reflect the same idea: "Leadership requires vision, integrity and courage."
The liberal arts education you have experienced creates a special kind of leader. When you arrived at Miami, our expectations were high. You were accomplished students with open and engaging minds. You were opened to diversity, inclusivity and connectedness. You showed big hearts with the capacity to build and advance community. You wanted to change the world and do it in the right way.
Now you leave with those attributes strengthened. You are equipped for service and leadership with impact. WE knew when we accepted you that you would push us to new heights. That you would build community around our shared values. That you would set the bar even higher for those who would come after you.
You defined excellence for us. Now your example and success will inspire those who follow you—just as you aspired to live up to previous generations of Miamians.
I would like to focus on this special kind of leadership—"Miami-style." It's about more than just taking an organization to a new size—or power—or profits. It is about motivating people to follow YOU—because you articulate a vision and purpose that resonates with them and includes them: an enthusiasm they want to spread, an optimism they seek to emulate, and a success they hope to share.
I have been your president for only a year and a half, but one thing I know for sure—Miami makes great leaders. Our university is known around the world for this leadership.
There is, of course, our storied leadership in sports. Miami is the "Cradle of Coaches" in the annals of football. On Sunday afternoon, you can see Sean McVay (Miami '08), the youngest head coach in the National Football League. He has transformed the Los Angeles Rams into contenders in his first year, leading the NFC West.
We are also among a handful of schools that produce the most Fortune 500 CEOs—alongside some of the most prestigious universities in the world—Harvard, Stanford, Notre Dame, Penn State, Texas A&M, M.I.T., Yale, and Vanderbilt. I am especially proud that we lead them ALL in the number of women who are Fortune 500 CEOs. One example, Lynn Good (Miami ’81), leads the giant Duke Energy. Lynn is number 11 among Fortune magazine's Most Powerful Women in Business, and is among Forbes' World’s 100 Most Powerful Women. She is leading that company to invest billions of dollars in clean energy generation, elevating its environmental stewardship.
This success is the result of the special type of leadership that we produce at Miami—I like to call it "virtuous leadership." It is the intangible I spoke about earlier. A quality that others see in you even when they can't name it. A unique combination of efficiency and compassion, innovation and creativity, wisdom and intellect, skill and empathy.
Take Ashley Van Buskirk (Miami '14) whose experience on a journalism internship in Kosovo inspired her to start a company called Flora Stationery. Ashley's company creates and sells notebooks to raise money for scholarships, so that women in that challenged nation can attend the University of Pristina. Ashley was prepared and inspired in a Miami University social entrepreneurship class. Flora Stationery has already provided about 100 scholarships to some 50 women. Ashley was a finalist for Forbes' "30 Under 30" Class last year.
This Miami kind of leadership impacts every sector of society. Our long tradition includes significant service to our country as well. Admiral Sidney Souers, Miami Class of '14—that's 1914—was the first Director of the Central Intelligence Agency after his distinguished Naval career. Our ROTC units carry on that leadership tradition today by training the next generation of military officers grounded in our core values.
Our graduates have significant impact on the culture of our nation. Pulitzer Prize winner Rita Dove (Miami '73) was the youngest U.S. poet laureate EVER. She was only the second woman and second African-American to serve as poet laureate. She received the National Medal of the Arts in 2011 for her leadership.
Wil Haygood (Miami '76), who gained fame with his movie The Butler and the subsequent book, recently announced a powerful new book, called Tigerland: The Miracle on East Broad Street. It's about students in a segregated Columbus, Ohio school who were inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King to achieve nationally-recognized excellence in basketball, baseball, and debate during the tumultuous year of 1968.
We are One Miami. Miami leaders are from all campuses. Mike Rohrkemper enrolled at our Middletown campus following service in Vietnam as a U.S. Marine. En route to graduation in 1974, Mike took the majority of his classes in Middletown. Following success as an accountant, he was tapped to lead Gold Star Chili as CEO. Mike is retired now, and he continues to lead and serve through community organizations, advising businesses and mentoring students such as yourselves.
These virtuous leaders were formed at Miami, where they found virtuous professors and passionate mentors. Let us take one example, Professor Tom Dutton, the beloved leader who left an incredible legacy when he passed away this past June. Professor Dutton taught architecture and founded our Center for Community Engagement. He taught and modeled social justice and urban collaboration, especially in Cincinnati's Over-the-Rhine. You have seen this model of leadership in your classrooms and across our campuses—not only words but living examples you can emulate.
We have so many extraordinary faculty members here at Miami! It is with great pride that I ask our inspiring faculty members who are here today representing their departmental colleagues, and our distinguished emeriti faculty in the audience to stand and be recognized for their superb commitment to our graduates we honor here today.
Graduates, you are the next wave of Miamians who are agents of vital change. Bring your own creativity and spirit to benefit others. You came to us with ambition and vision. You grew. You learned with us. We learned from you. You made our community stronger. You are going out equipped to carry on the great Miami tradition of leadership and to blaze the trail for those who come after you.
We are excited to see what you become—the impact you will have. Change requires courage, and change requires values. You can lead real change, bolstered by your Miami University family. We are proud of you. And we look forward to enhancing this great legacy—together.