Current President's Site

Presidential Commencement Address - may 2016

Dr. Hobson Wildenthal, President ad interim

This is my 23rd Spring Commencement at UT Dallas. Counting fall and summer exercises, I have experienced more than 50. Given that we have always, in my time, had to have several ceremonies for each commencement cycle, I must have sat (the operative word) through at least 200 separate ceremonies.

There was a time when we did not have the Activity Center. I am told that we held some commencement ceremonies outdoors, but that was never tried again after one disastrous encounter with 100-degree temperatures in black robes. In the early 1990s, we held commencement off campus at the Richardson City Hall complex on Arapaho, or, when we grew larger, at the Plano Center. One year we were bumped from our reservations in Plano, by a cat show no less, and had to return to the smaller facilities at Richardson. That necessitated five ceremonies. Five. Can you believe it? We thought that we had survived a marathon. Now that we are conditioned to eight ceremonies, it would seem like a sprint.

Sitting through those 200-odd ceremonies, I listened to many commencement speakers: the president, the speaker of the faculty, graduate and undergraduate deans, and occasional vice presidents. Since we have always had multiple ceremonies for each graduation time, one heard the same speeches over and over and over. They rarely got better with repetition, and when they were irritating, as some were, they got worse and worse.

Perhaps the only thing worse than having to listen to the same speech over and over again is having to give the same speech over and over again. That is my challenge for these three days. On this note, our recent innovation of having different students give speeches at each ceremony has been a great idea, not only because the student speakers are excellent but also because one can hear each speech only once.

But those matters were and are trivia. What counts at commencement exercises, and never gets old, and never fails to inspire those of us who work at and work for UT Dallas, is the thrill of sharing with you your joy and your pride of accomplishment. Believe me, you inspire us, and particularly on this day of pure, distilled, enjoyment, yours and ours.

It is my turn now, after 23 years, to get to be, or to have to be, the commencement speaker, addressing you graduates and your families and friends who are here celebrating this occasion with you. I will attempt to convey to you some of my thinking and feeling about UT Dallas, and hopefully strike some chords of resonance between your thoughts and emotions and mine. I could write a book about all of the things and people of UT Dallas that make me proud and give me joy as I stroll around campus. Maybe I will someday, but remembering that brevity is the soul of wit, and also the essence of compassion for the audience, I did not write it for today's address.

Speaking simply, I feel proud of UT Dallas, proud of our students, particularly today, of you graduates, and proud of our faculty and of my administrative and staff colleagues. I am proud of our buildings and of our campus appearance, and I am proud of the reputation we have earned among thoughtful and knowledgeable members of the larger community. That reputation is that UT Dallas is a community of bright, hardworking and hard-studying students and faculty, that we "do" education the right way, and that we are steadily and rapidly ascending to the highest ranks of American universities.

You and your families should feel that same pride in UT Dallas, and feel particularly proud to be its graduates.

Our pride is well-justified by the objective facts. Our students' intellectual distinction ranks them with America's best; our faculty members' achievements in research, creativity and teaching are recognized by increasingly many competitive awards; and our campus buildings and exteriors now excite admiration from all visitors. Our achievements strike envy, and maybe even fear, among our community of peer universities, as more and more outstanding students such as you are choosing us as the runway from which they takeoff into their futures.

You graduates have been at UT Dallas during a time of amazing growth and progress. There is good reason to believe that this progress will continue in the years ahead. Your fellow alums who left UT Dallas as you arrived have a hard time recognizing and navigating today's campus when they return. Do not stay away too long or you will encounter similar difficulties.

We think that you graduates made wise choices when you enrolled in UT Dallas. We know you worked hard, at a demanding school, to graduate. We are grateful you chose us, and we thank you for your confidence in us. You are now wed to your alma mater through unbreakable bonds, and we to you. Let us enjoy a long and happy relationship. Congratulations.