University of Vermont

217th Commencement Ceremonies - May 19 and 20, 2018

Greeting: David A. Daigle, Class of 1989
Chair of the University of Vermont Board of Trustees

David A DaiglePresident Sullivan, distinguished members of the platform party, special guests, family, friends, faculty, staff, and especially graduates of the class of 2017, on behalf of the board of trustees of the University of Vermont, I welcome you to this celebration!

Today you join a community of catamount alumni that numbers in excess of one hundred thousand.  The University of Vermont graduates that constitute this thriving, global community share a deep affection for this institution.  Each has navigated a different course, but all remain bound by their shared experiences here.

It is a near certainty that somewhere along your course to this commencement day one or more people asked you some variant of the following question:  what do you want to do with your life? 

Even as you now stand ready to receive your diploma, you may still be searching for an answer to this question.  You might even resent that I raised the issue on your glorious day of celebration.

Let me offer a few thoughts to suggest that your answer to the question is less relevant than you may think. 

What you are doing in twenty years will likely bear little resemblance to what you think you will be doing in twenty years.

You will enter a workforce that is as dynamic as any in human history.  The pace of technological change is breathtaking, and these forces will profoundly reshape our economy and society over the course of your careers.

The evidence of rapid evolution surrounds us – the last decade alone has given us the gifts of smartphones, Facebook, Uber, and cloud computing.  Amazon is only as old as you.

For a newly minted graduate, this evolution is both thrilling and daunting.  You seek a predictable path, the world delivers volatility.  You pursue a career, the economy changes.

Always remember this – the world may deliver any number of disruptive things to your doorstep, but only you get to choose your outlook.  You can be pessimistic and anxious about the negative consequences of change, or you can be optimistic and help craft the positive consequences of change.  You choose.

What you learned here will serve you well, although perhaps not in the way you anticipate.

Much of what you learned, whether or not you were aware at the time, is not particularly path dependent.  You have acquired skills at UVM that are unlikely to become extinct in this evolution.  If you studied history, or learned a language, or developed quantitative reasoning and data analysis skills, or excelled at debate, your skills will remain relevant and in demand.

Your course may be winding, it may be unconventional.  It may be wholly unrelated to your degree.  What will serve you well are generalized skills, an ability to adapt, and having a set of mental models that are durable enough to withstand evolutionary forces.  Employers can and will teach you specific skills; what they truly covet are informed and literate problem solvers.

What it takes to be successful in life is not primarily going to be a function of your degree.

Your course will be full of inevitable peaks and valleys.  In that respect, it will resemble your college life.  Eliminate the noise, and think carefully about what you enjoyed most about your experience at UVM.  I imagine your thoughts went immediately to people - faculty, staff, and students with whom you developed relationships and shared experiences.  Ultimately, your relationships will define your success as much as anything else.

I have a friend who has had the good fortune to have started and sold several very large businesses.  Late in his career he created a book covering the life cycle of his businesses.  He titled the book The Joys of the Journey.  It was about the people, about the relationships forged over years of turning dreams into reality.  Savor the joys of your journey as you chart your course forward.

I hope that in the future you return often to visit this beautiful campus; please stay connected to your University.  As you leave here remember to thank those friends, faculty, coaches and others who helped you along the way. 

We wish you fair winds and following seas as you begin your journey.

Congratulations and best wishes, class of 2017!

Go Cats!

Last modified June 12 2017 08:09 AM