Academic Ceremonies - December Commencement
Jane E. Knodell
Professor of Economics
Provost and Senior Vice President
Good morning and welcome.
Congratulations to all graduates, and to those who helped you along the way, on your successful completion of your undergraduate degree at the University of Vermont.
As you look back on your educational experience at UVM, I hope it has lived up to the definition of education offered by 20th century Irish poet and Nobel Laureate William Butler Yeats:
“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire,”
Education is not the transfer of information from teacher to student. It is the transformation of the student into an independent thinker, into someone who, throughout their lives, seeks to deepen their understanding, broaden their range of knowledge, expertise and contribution, to become more sophisticated, complex, and subtle in their thinking, writing, and speaking.
In this sense, your education has just begun. As those of us who are a few years past graduation can well attest, your education, your search doesn’t end with graduation. Some flames will burn brighter, some will flicker, some will shift, but if you keep the flame alive, especially in the hard times (and there will be hard times), you will come out all right.
Consider the case of author Annie Proulx, UVM Class of 1969. Long before she wrote her Pulitzer-Prize winning novel “The Shipping News” or the short story adapted into the film “Brokeback Mountain,” Proulx was a UVM student who spent long hours in the library researching items in the Fleming Museum collection as part of an internship.
Her first career as a writer would be with home and gardening books with such scintillating titles such as “Make Your Own Insulated Window Shutters” or “Fences & Gates, Walkways, Walls & Drives.” You may be surprised to know that this winner of the National Book Award also wrote what is perhaps the world’s definitive guide to making hard cider.
After her breakthrough as a novelist later in her career, Annie Proulx said:
"What's reflected in my fiction did not so much jump from manuals on grape growing and fence mending as from very serious academic hours in libraries and archives and an inborn curiosity about life."
We never know how this fire lit by education, those long hours of study, will emerge or re-emerge in our lives. Graduates, today you join Annie Proulx and tens of thousand of other UVM alumni on this sometimes mysterious journey, united by your shared experience at the University of Vermont.
Again, congratulations and my best wishes to all of you.
Last modified January 22 2012 09:44 AM