Office of the President

Go Forth, but Remember
Where You are From

Commencement Address Spring 2013

Greetings, and to family and friends with us today, welcome to UT Dallas. It’s my pleasure, as well, to welcome a special guest, Brenda Pejovich, a member of our University of Texas System Board of Regents. Regent Pejovich, thank you for joining us.

We gather now to celebrate the hard work and sacrifices your diplomas symbolize. Congratulations to all of you on the achievements marked by our ceremonies today.

This event marks my eighth year at UT Dallas. During that time, the four-year graduation rate of our undergraduates has improved markedly. I expect it will continue to improve. This past spring, we realized that our students are graduating at a rate favorably comparable to those of UT Austin and A&M—and in fact, that we are very close to passing the Texas Aggies! Graduation rates for master’s and doctoral students are strong and getting better each year, and graduate students are a key ingredient in our University’s rise in national prominence as well as service to the state and the nation.

This academic achievement has been the result of many individual efforts on the part of our students and alumni during this time. It is also the result of a great deal of hard work on the part of our faculty and staff.

It is a shared achievement and one of which we should all feel very proud. Your graduation today only adds to the record of excellence UT Dallas is setting. Please give yourselves and the many here to support you today a round of applause.

“It is a shared achievement and one of which we should all feel very proud. Your graduation today only adds to the record of excellence UT Dallas is setting.”

For all of you before me, this ceremony is the conclusion to a journey typically years in the making. You are surely preparing for what’s next—graduate school, a job, the process of beginning to look for a job, volunteer work or perhaps something else.

As with most transitions, graduation comes with dozens of small details to arrange, from rings to robes. Urgent minutia associated with the many events of the day can absorb all our attention and get in the way of any quiet opportunity to reflect on the actions and choices that brought us here. So please take a few minutes with me now to consider the elements of this journey we’ve shared.

Let's begin with the beginning, for none of us arrived here without help and support.

Parents and families: You supported your students in ways financial, emotional and otherwise, to help ensure their progress. You prepared them. Molded them. Instilled values. You gave them the opportunity to make something of themselves.

Teachers and mentors: You challenged and encouraged these students, setting high standards and urging completion. By your own example, you showed the way. You inspired. You taught. At times it was tough love, but it was only because you wanted to give a gift that can never be taken away: an educated mind.

And students: Because you are here, I know you chose diligence early in your academic life. You would not otherwise have qualified for the very competitive environment of this University. When the time came, you chose this special place, characterized by its rigor and energy, where we expect more of students, and where they regularly exceed our expectations. You chose to get out of bed and got to class (most of the time, anyway), to study hard, and to shape your future positively. Take pride in what you have accomplished. Congratulations, and well done!

“We set out not just to meet the challenges the future will bring, but also to shape that future. As you go forth, I hope you continue to value and assert your ability to influence your world for the better.”

Among the many reasons you had for making these choices, there is one I believe we share: We set out not just to meet the challenges the future will bring, but also to shape that future. As you go forth, I hope you continue to value and assert your ability to influence your world for the better.

There are four important ways in which you can use your education to contribute to the greater good:

  1. Innovate. Be bold about looking for and trying what’s new. Invent the new means if one is needed. A necessary condition for innovation is a willingness to suffer set-backs as you try new ideas. Don’t be afraid to fail. Don’t let failure get you down. The only people who never fail are those who never try.
  2. Seek opportunity. Zig when others zag. If everyone else is going right, try going left. Find unmet needs and fulfill them.
  3. Take action. Don't wait to investigate your great idea or do the thing you’ve always wanted to try. Don't allow your aspirations to be infected and weakened by fear of the unknown.
  4. Give back. Don’t just take; give, too. If you are successful—as I predict you will be—giving back to people, causes and organizations that you believe in may be one of your greatest sources of personal satisfaction.

Remember where you are from: At UT Dallas, we embrace the unknown, study it, and turn what we find into something that serves people and society. We don't wait for the future. We create it.

As graduates of this University, you have proved your readiness to embark toward the vision you hold of your future. Move forward with energy and enthusiasm. Like entering college, graduating represents an emotional and personal milestone, not just an intellectual one. By being admitted to UT Dallas, you achieved a considerable level of academic distinction. But no one’s success is predetermined—we know you worked hard to get here today. We are proud of you and honored to have played a transformative role in your life.

I offer deepest admiration for your achievement today and for your contributions to our University, and look forward to hearing of those achievements to come.

Thank you, and good luck!

Updated: May 16, 2013