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Jerry Li

Portrait of Jerry Li

Before I begin, I’d just like to say: Hi Mom! Hi Dad! I’m real glad you two could make it. I love you!

I realize that not everyone’s families and loved ones could make it here today. However, I was told that we are livestreaming and recording our graduation. The camera’s right over there. Let’s all take a moment to wave to everyone who couldn’t make it today and are watching from afar.

My fellow students, my name is Jerry Li, and I am graduating today with a master’s in healthcare leadership and management. I am honored that I was chosen to speak at our commencement. However, even though I will be telling my story today, my story is just one of many here. Some of you grew up five minutes away. Some of you came from the other side of the world. Many of you juggled school with full-time jobs or taking care of your families (which is a full-time job with no PTO). I am humbled to have the privilege to speak for us all.

I emigrated from China when I was 2 years old and grew up in Los Angeles, California. This actually isn’t my first time graduating from UTD. I enrolled at UTD in 2005 and graduated four years later with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Afterward, I wanted to serve my country, and I joined the U.S. Navy as a naval officer. Over eight years of active duty service, I drove warships, led sailors and hunted submarines in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. After my tours at sea, I found my calling: I wanted to make health care better for my fellow Americans. After sailing the world, I returned home to UTD to pursue a master’s degree.

“My friends, we are the future leaders of the world! We have the power to rise to our true potential, face all challenges and build a better world for us all. This is our future. Our story. Personally, I cannot wait to see the amazing things that you all will accomplish.”

I gotta say, when I came back, I was like, “Holy moly, this place has changed! We got trees? We got fountains? We have an awesome Overwatch team?” However, I did shed a manly tear for the Art Barn. Rest in peace, you beautiful thing, you.

Just as our campus has changed, I saw that our student body has changed. UTD students have always been an impressive bunch, but in the last year and a half I’ve been here, I’ve seen you all accomplish some truly amazing things. My peers in the Healthcare Leadership program tackled tremendous challenges like the opioid crisis and improving care for my brothers- and sisters-in-arms who suffer from PTSD. Business analytics students worked with the Child Poverty Action Lab to help working-class families. Our Innovation and Entrepreneurship students were recognized by the Texas Business Hall of Fame. Some of our fellow students provided hurricane relief in Puerto Rico during their spring break. Some of us fought our own personal battles to make it to this very moment. Through hard work and perseverance, you all have not only earned a degree, but you have already made an incredible impact on our world.

My friends, tremendous challenges await us after graduation. However, I know we have the knowledge and leadership skills to face those challenges head on. In the Navy, I saw that cooperation, teamwork and integrity will allow a group of strangers from all over the world to band together and accomplish the impossible. After graduation, I urge you all to remember each other. Remember the friendships and relationships you’ve forged here. When you need help, reach out to a fellow Comet, no matter how far apart you are or how long it’s been.

My friends, we are the future leaders of the world! We have the power to rise to our true potential, face all challenges and build a better world for us all. This is our future. Our story. Personally, I cannot wait to see the amazing things that you all will accomplish. I am proud to be graduating with you all today and to call you fellow Comets.

Thank you.


Jerry Li BA’09 is graduating with a Master of Science in healthcare leadership and management, a Healthcare IT Certificate, and a Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt. He earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from UT Dallas in May 2009. After completing his undergraduate degree, he served in the U.S. Navy for eight years as a surface warfare officer. He was assigned to guided-missile destroyers and specialized in anti-submarine warfare and anti-terrorism/force protection. He continues his service in the Navy Reserve supporting the 7th Fleet Theater Anti-Submarine Warfare Commander and performs military funeral honors for deceased veterans as a part of the Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth Honor Guard. After graduation, he plans to enter the health care industry while serving in the Navy Medical Service Corps.