I write to you on the eve of our 170th Commencement. Tomorrow the University community will gather on Edwards Parade to confer more than 3,500 bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees upon the Class of 2015.
As a one-time scholar and current university president, I find our annual celebration of achievement fitting and right. Commencement is, in many ways, the brightest day in our academic calendar: our raison d’être. Teaching and scholarship are at the heart of what we do at Fordham, and central to what defines a great university. One measurement of how well we do at teaching and research is the annual roll of prestigious scholarships our students accumulate.
So far, 159 undergraduate and graduate or professional students have received 173 national and international fellowships or awards, including 10 Fulbright winners. In fact, Fordham is consistently among the leading producers of Fulbrights in the country. You can read all about this year’s awards here.
Of course I’m proud of these students, of the dedicated faculty who teach them and mentor them, and of the exceptional work of our Campion Institute and a small cadre of alumni volunteers in preparing those students for the prestigious fellowship process. Bragging rights, however, are not the point. Every one of the student award winners has taken advantage of the best thing a University has to offer: in developing their intellectual, moral, and social lives, they have seen their worlds expand.
For these students—and many others at Fordham—their horizons have opened up in a way that only a University education can accomplish. This process is the result of long hours of focused work by the students, faculty, and Campion staff; a developing of the whole person that prepares our students not merely for rewarding careers, but for lives well lived. That, my friends, is our triumph.
I close by saying to you, take it all. Take everything Fordham has to offer: the wisdom of your faculty members, the friendship of your colleagues, the enthusiasm of your students. Immerse yourself in an academic community that I believe is unique in many ways, and offers riches beyond the dreams of avarice.
Finally, to the Class of 2015, I say this: we will miss you, but you will be ours until the end of time. Godspeed.
Joseph M. McShane, SJ