Commencement exercises are set to launch on college campuses across America. For those of us fortunate to be involved in higher education, this season marks the pinnacle of the academic year as we celebrate the accomplishments of graduating seniors and the myriad sacrifices made by them and their loved one to acquire the sought-after "sheepskin." The etymology of the ancient word for diploma comes from the practice of hand-writing one's academic achievement on thin Italian sheepskin given the scarcity and fragility of paper. Regardless of what the diploma is printed on, graduates now have their tickets punched into the company of this country's educated citizenry.
To the Class of 2013, I hope you will always remember your alma mater, which is Latin for "nurturing mother." Consider the metaphorical meaning in that Latin name for your college or university. In a very real sense, your time on a campus gave birth to your intellectual, social, personal, and academic identity. You left the teenage years behind and hopefully matured into an adult, ready to enter the world's workforce with a set of marketable skills, a more global perspective, and an insatiable desire to continue to learn.
At Southern Utah University, we have a campus motto adopted during the tenure of a former president in the 1950s: "Learning Lives Forever." While the bestowal of a degree and admission into an alumni association mark the end of formal study as a college student, the process of learning must continue throughout one's life. The legendary jurist, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., took up the study of Latin after his 90th birthday. When a friend asked him why on earth he would do so at such at advanced age, Justice Holmes wryly responded: "If not now, when?"
Remember the professors and staff who helped you reach this day of commencement, remember the experiences outside the classroom which taught you invaluable lessons, remember the relationships you have forged with classmates, remember the challenges and obstacles you have overcome to reach this academic pinnacle. But above all, remember these words from Malcolm Forbes: "Education's purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one."