Elon holds 119th Commencement Exercises
Imploring students to serve the communities where they will live, the Rev. Richard McBride used his Commencement address on May 23, 2009, to encourage the largest graduating class in Elon University history to find “the place where what you most need to do to fulfill your life intersects with what you believe the world most needs to have done.”
A total of 1,121 students received bachelor degrees this spring, and event organizers estimated more than 10 times that number visited campus to watch the ceremony Under the Oaks on the lawn in front of West Hall. The event was also streamed live over the Elon University web site for those unable to attend in person.
Elon alumnus Walter Cam Tims ’00 welcomed guests following the national anthem, and senior class president Danielle Durst also spoke to the crowd with a message of appreciation for faculty and staff who guided her classmates’ growth since arriving on campus in fall 2005.
“We have a great deal to look forward to this morning. Our futures are really bright,” Durst said. “This institution has given us the skills to succeed.”
McBride opened his keynote speech by acknowledging his son, Scott, who graduated Elon in 1991 and today serves in the U.S. Army as an Apache helicopter pilot. Scott McBride was on leave from his deployment in Iraq to attend Commencement for his father’s last public remarks before retirement next week after 25 years with the university.
“Clearly for us all, the unfinished task is becoming fully human. I pray that your university career has advanced the project, because at Elon your life does matter and we care about your development as a complete person,” McBride said. “But I assure you that becoming fully human is a lifelong project. You do not get to skip it by being intelligent and having the benefit of a university education.
“And your best teachers on this subject may be those who do not have degrees or accolades to hide behind,” he continued. “They simply honor the truth of their own lives through the practice of silence. They turn off distractions and listen to their own voice. They honor the presence of others whose lives are rich with their own potentialities. They honor their inheritance of culture and family. And they honor the sacredness of all things.”
His address ended with a toast to the Class of 2009. Seniors pulled out water bottles that had been placed under their seats.
“My hope for this class is that you will not think of your college years – as some do – as the best years of your life, though I pray they have been very good years,” McBride said. “Rather think that your time at Elon is launching you into a future where ‘the best is yet to be.’”
In his charge to alumni to close the ceremony, Elon President Leo M. Lambert instructed graduates to use what they have learned and experienced over the past four years to make the world better for those less fortunate. He also asked that graduates plant the oak sapling they were to receive at the end of Commencement – a traditional gift to all alumni – to serve as a reminder that they have been prepared by their education to do good.
“As you stand this morning, I charge you to go into the world and take a stand on behalf of someone else, someone without the privilege of your good health, your full belly, your education, your knowledge, your family, your security,” Lambert said. “Your alma mater – your nurturing mother – expects this of you.”
He then posed a second charge.
“It is our conviction that the world needs Elon graduates, that the difference Elon alumni make in the world are important and profound,” Lambert continued. “As you carry the light of Elon named Lumen and Numen into the world with you today, remember that it is also your responsibility to tend the lamp – this university – so that it will shine brightly awaiting your children.”