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College President's Widow Uses Husband's Passing To Remind Grads About Resilience

05/22/2015 11:43 am ET | Updated May 22, 2015
Courtesy Ursinus College

"The greatest honor a community can pay a fallen leader is to move forward on the plans they made together."

The widow of the Ursinus College president shared these words speaking at the Pennsylvania school's commencement address on May 15.

Ursinus College President Bobby Fong died suddenly of natural causes on Sept. 8, 2014 at his home in Collegeville, Pennsylvania, at the age of 64. His wife, Suzanne, was by his side. Bobby Fong became president of Ursinus College at the start of the 2011 academic year, which would've been the freshman year for most students in the Class of 2015.

Suzanne and Bobby were given honorary baccalaureate degrees that were meant to symbolize they are honorary members of the Class of 2015. Of course, Bobby's was awarded posthumously.

"You have certainly learned one lesson over these four years: life is what happens when you are making other plans," Suzanne Fong said in her remarks. "You can do much, but your powers are limited."

Suzanne used Bobby's passing to remind graduates the importance of resilience:

The future we thought we had, the plans we all After a death, or any loss, really, you grieve, but all you can really do is to keep on living until you feel alive again. You mourn what is lost, but you cannot live in what might have been. You are forced to live into a reality different from the one you had hoped. But different is not necessarily worse. Just different.

On the same note, Suzanne implored students to be ready for plans to fall through. She explained how Bobby switched majors when he was in college and ultimately led a much more satisfying life when he pursued a field of study he was more passionate about:

Like Bobby, you came to college with dreams of what you might be. But college is the place for testing those dreams against your own abilities and your own values. Sometimes, learning what you love, and what you are good at, involves the very painful lesson of letting go of what you THOUGHT you were good at. Letting go of a dream can be heartbreaking. It can also be paralyzing. It can be too easy to sit there, berating yourself, feeling like a failure who will never amount to anything. When a dream dies, sometimes all you can do is take the next step in front of you without knowing where it may lead. So, when disappointment comes, mourn a bit, but keep going forward. Ask yourself “What CAN I do?” What can I do now? There is always a plan B…or a plan C … Many of you have already learned that plan C can work as well or better than the dream it replaced.

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