University of Vermont

Academic Ceremonies - Commencement

Greeting - Cioffi Board of Trustees Chair

Robert F. Cioffi
Chair of the Board of Trustees

Robert Cioffi

Governor Shumlin, Distinguished Members of the Platform Party, special guests, family, friends, faculty, staff, and most especially members of the Class of 2011, on behalf of the UVM Board of Trustees, I welcome you to this joyous occasion! As I begin my remarks, I wish to note that at UVM we spare no effort or expense to make our guests feel at home….Billie Jean King, we just knew that you would be so much more comfortable here in our tennis facility.  So, you’re welcome!

This is a day when we up here dispense advice to you out there.  Good advice, but advice that likely will be instantly forgotten.  Abolitionist Robert Purvis once described a graduation ceremony as “An event where the commencement speaker tells thousands of students dressed in identical caps and gowns that 'individuality' is the key to success.”  Of course, I have noticed that some of you chose to break with the identical part!

But, be that as it may, I’m still going to take my shot with some advice.  Do with it what you will.

Without question, this is a very happy day – a day for celebration and great joy.  But there is another emotion that may be running through the crowd today:  FEAR.  That’s right, graduates. Naked, unadulterated fear.  I felt it when I graduated from UVM 21 years ago, and I bet many of you are feeling it right now.

My advice is to remember that it’s OK to be afraid.  Everybody’s unsure about what’s coming next.  Just like your very first day here on campus, when maybe you didn’t know where to eat or who to talk to, tomorrow you’ll be college graduates but the fear has returned. Tomorrow you’ll start the next stage of your lives. Tomorrow the adventure really begins.  Don’t let your fears stop you.  Take risks, do important and challenging things, realize your potential.  Your University will stand behind you every step of the way.

I don’t need to tell you that The University of Vermont is a very special place.  UVM has prepared you well.  UVM graduates know how to listen, how to reason and how to understand. And how to still get to class by 9am on a February morning when it’s 10 degrees and snowing.

You have every reason to be confident and optimistic as you approach the rest of your life.   Don’t place limits on yourself. 

The best way to predict the future is to create it -- enjoy creating yours. 

While taking your leave of this incredible place may seem like a fearful proposition, remember that “if you do the thing you fear most, the death of fear is certain”.  That’s not my line, it’s Mark Twain’s.  A man whose wisdom and advice we can all certainly heed.

Congratulations to the class of 2011, and many thanks to the parents, siblings, grandparents, and all other family members and friends who have supported them emotionally, psychologically, and yes, financially. 

Enjoy every minute of this very special day and…. Go Cats!

Last modified June 24 2011 01:30 PM

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