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Commencement | May 2010

For the graduating class of 2010, I have a few thoughts for you. I know you have studied hard. You have matured and grown through your classes, through your participation in athletics, fraternities, sororities, choir, band, theater, student leadership, speech choir, clubs, travel and through your relationships with faculty, staff and your fellow students. You are outstanding representatives of our mission—confident, competent, contributors to society. I know you are prepared for the next step in your journey so I am not going to give you advice about your careers or professions.

I have a simple message: take time to live in the moment, in the here and now. You are a group that learned to communicate with your thumbs and have come to expect instant response. Even now, I would suspect some of you are texting each other or someone in audience. When you are texting or twittering or on Facebook, your eyes are looking down and your minds are in a virtual world. And the virtual world is certainly one that we all appreciate. But it is sometimes so easy to be in that virtual world that we disconnect from the physical world, we miss what is really happening around us. So, my challenge to you is simply—from time to time, be intentional, and look up.

Let me tell you a little story that perhaps will help you remember this challenge. Most of the graduates from this campus know that Dennis and I have two dachshunds, Frankie and Morgan. Many of you have seen us out on walks around campus. When we moved here 4 years ago, Frankie and Morgan thought the campus was their personal dog-walking park. On the other hand, the abundant red squirrels that have been here for years, believe they own the campus, and being around students all day, the squirrels are not afraid of anything or anyone. So, on our walks, the squirrels will wait until we are very close before they run for the tree. Of course, that incites Frankie and Morgan because they really want to chase them. We will occasionally run with them to the tree. Naturally, they are eagerly trying to climb the tree to find where the squirrel is hiding. As they are looking up and barking, we look up too, and it is amazing what you see when you look up—the leaves, the squirrels, the sky, the people around you—the beauty of the world. It takes my eyes away from the sidewalk, away from the ground, away from my thoughts about a busy day, even away from a text I may have been reading or sending. Suddenly the day looks different—because my eyes are focused in a different direction.

Look up and take a breath. In the future, when you are facing all the challenges of life—and the challenges will be there—perhaps something—maybe seeing two little dachshunds—will trigger a memory of your time at Baker. You will pause and look up and remember your family who supported you, your friends who encouraged you, your faculty who inspired you, and your faith that sustained you. Look up.

I want to say I have had the privilege of a lifetime to be your president at Baker. The year before I came to Baker, I started a tradition of taking my then 4 year old nephew, Seth, shopping for his birthday and letting him pick out his own present. Before we started the shopping experience, we would stop for a cup of hot chocolate and have what he would call our talking time. Just a few weeks ago, we took our annual trip and Seth, now 9, asked me, “Aunt Pat, why did you want to be president at Baker?” The answer to that question is easy to answer today—and I would guess, my answer is similar to how our faculty, staff and Trustees feel. To have been a part of this journey with you, to see the men and women you have become, to know that you will be outstanding teachers, nurses, doctors, clergy, businessmen and women, attorneys, accountants, actors, singers, performers, researchers—incredible contributors to society and our communities, that has been our blessing and our joy. You are our future, and the Trustees, faculty, staff, and I are so very proud of you.

I will always remember you the class of 2010. May God truly bless each and every one of you.