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This day goes by two rather different names: Graduation and Commencement. Graduation implies the end of a time but commencement implies just the opposite, a beginning. And so we are left with two different directions in which to look for guidance today; one back, at your recent accomplishments, and one forward, to the beginning of the rest of your life. But the two directions are not disconnected. You may not recognize T.S. Eliot as a source of business advice but he produced some of his most memorable poetry while employed in a London bank. He once wrote:
What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
Today, your University of Missouri experience and the real people who are a part of it do not disappear. Your time here and the people here inevitably will be a part of what you become.
A standard line from a freshman convocation asks new students to,"Look to your right, look to your left. Four years from now those people won't be here." Well you are not freshmen, but I still want you to look to your right and to your left. These are the people who have supported you and befriended you for the past several years. They were the members of your group when you studied for the statistics test. They were there when you presented the case in Business Policy. They cried with you when you bombed the Marketing quiz and celebrated when you pulled out the grade in MIS. They carried you back from Blue Berry Hill after celebrating the Cardinals win. Also around you are others who have been there for you; family, friends, faculty and staff. You should be proud of your accomplishments, but they are not yours alone. Please take a moment today to thank all of those who have helped you along the way. They are a part of your growing network.
As you leave this place and look to the future, it is also important to remember the role of others in your future success. Little is accomplished by one person alone. James Autry, who retired as president of the magazine group at Meredith Corporation writes:
He called himself a self-made man, And his colleagues agreed."The kind of man who built this country," they said,"Never asked anybody for help.""Never took a dime he didn't earn.""Made it on his own." And so forth.
But can that really be, the self-made somebody? How many times do we ask for help without ever using the words? How much are we paid before we're good enough to earn the dimes we take? And can we climb the ladder alone, or do some of us just never notice those lifts and boosts
along the way?
The worldview that recognizes the need for collaboration and values the ability to work together toward a common goal is the view based in reality. The Christian evangelist Paul offered his followers in Corinth some advice on team building. Using the analogy of a human body he admonished
...there are many members, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you," nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; whereas our more respectable members do not need this. ... If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.
In business, networking is vital. But in a real sense, our whole
lives revolve around networking - be it human or divine. In
short, we need each other. We need the strong and we need the weak.
You have the knowledge and skills for good decision-making. As your
career path unfolds before you, I encourage you to acquire the wisdom
to use those skills for the benefit of all.
Your classmates are the beginning of your new network. Carry the network you have begun here with you, and develop the human relationships that will sustain you in all your endeavors. As you move on from here, you will take on jobs that require the talents of others, as well as your own, and you will need to form diverse teams to accomplish goals. Maintain your network and you will have a ready supply of team members. Cultivate diversity and you will accomplish goals that you and folks with the same skills as yours will not be able to accomplish. And when a task seems too difficult, call upon those other members of the body.
Indeed, the end we mark today is yet another beginning, one in which we all are participants, one in which we all have a stake.