University of Vermont

Academic Ceremonies - Commencement

Robert F. Cioffi, Chair of the Board of Trustees

Robert F Cioffi

Governor Shumlin, Distinguished Members of the Platform Party, special guests, family, friends, faculty, staff, and most especially members of the Class of 2012, on behalf of the UVM Board of Trustees, I welcome you to this joyous ceremony! It is my great privilege to be with you on this glorious day in this incomparable setting on the hill in Burlington, Vermont.  Look around you and take it all in.  I have to admit, we don’t always get weather like this for Commencement – it is often much colder and a whole lot wetter, so let’s enjoy it.  As I told our Commencement speaker earlier, I did think of someone who might not like this dry, warm day.  He happens to be one of her employees:  Spongebob Squarepants. 

To our graduates:  I offer my heartfelt congratulations on everything you’ve achieved to get here.  It’s hard for me to believe, but 22 years ago I was in your shoes, excited to leave UVM to begin the next phase of my life but nervous and hesitant to leave a place which had given me so much happiness, comfort, and support.

My kids love Shel Silverstein as much as I do and while reading one of his most prolific poems I saw parallels to the experience of wearing a cap and gown.  He begins:

There is a place where the sidewalk ends
And before the street begins,
And there the grass grows soft and white,
And there the sun burns crimson bright,
And there the moon-bird rests from his flight
To cool in the peppermint wind.

For many of you, life has been charting a course along a well-paved and fairly straight sidewalk: elementary school, middle school, high school, and then college.  Now you’re at an enviable albeit nerve-wracking place:  the end of that sidewalk.  Your next step may be a job, a backpack, more classrooms, a couch (briefly, I hope), or places yet unknown.  But no matter what lies ahead, know that your University is behind you as you step off that sidewalk and into the world.

Graduation speeches are often filled with unsolicited advice and I’m afraid my short remarks will be no different.  If you’ve got some fear of stepping off of our safe sidewalk and into the traffic-filled world, that’s to be expected.   Just make sure you look both ways and, when the coast is clear, step boldly and with purpose onto whatever road will bring you fulfillment and happiness.

Your UVM family is extremely proud of what you’ve done during your time here and we’re even more excited to learn of your accomplishments once you walk off into the world. I know first-hand that keeping in touch with UVM can be nearly as rewarding as your years here have been. 

So yes, this is the place where the sidewalk ends and before the street begins.  Your UVM undergraduate sidewalk ends here, but what you’ve learned and experienced at this wonderful institution will enable you to travel on roads you never imagined. Congratulations, good luck and keep in touch with your University as you continue your journey.

Last modified June 07 2012 01:21 PM

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