Remarks made by Jeff Kaplan ’12 at the 2012 Centre Showcase
May 1, 2012
I would first like to thank the faculty and the senior class for this wonderful opportunity.
Wow—it seems like yesterday that we filed in here and listened to President Roush’s welcome in preparation for our Centre orientation. In just a matter of days, the Class of 2012 will walk across this stage and receive pieces of paper worth around $200,000.00. Fortunately, due to annual gifts, the College’s endowment and financial aid, the strong majority of our class has paid only a fraction of that cost. The fact still remains, however, that the listed comprehensive fee of our education is $159,250.00.
Now, if you’ve studied abroad for a semester, you may be interested in knowing that this figure equals just over 1 million Chinese Yuan, 121,871 Euros, 2.1 million Mexican pesos or 12.8 million Japanese yen.
Is our diploma really worth that?
You may be asking yourself: what might I be able to buy or pay for if I had all of that money today? Well, I have a few examples:
1) You could almost book Snoop Dogg for a concert, but you wouldn’t be able to afford a stage or a microphone, so Snoop Dogg’s voice may be a bit muzzled. Sorry—I’ll try to put a leash on those dog puns.
2) You could buy every one of your fellow classmates their very own perfect President Roush hairpiece; you just know that would make people wig out.
3) Or, how about this one: you could pay the indecent exposure citation for every single Centre student to run the Flame and get caught—with a little money left over to buy them all new underwear.
Those were just a few examples of great things you could do with the money. If you ask me, that seems like a lot of money to pay for a piece of paper. But we all know that we’ll take away from this place much more than just a diploma. While that piece of paper will look great on an office wall in a beautiful frame, it really just acts as the symbol for an incredible four-year experience. Throughout this experience, we have all been equipped with the skills and knowledge necessary to chase our dreams, such as the amount of ‘contrapposto’ exhibited by statues in the Late Archaic period.
What’s both sad and fantastic is that most of you immediately thought of the Kritios Boy.
What will that piece of paper represent to us, the Class of 2012? Well, it may represent the privilege we have of being the last class to have the upscale dining experience known as Chowan for an entire academic year; one of the only buildings in the country where you had the facilities to both play tennis and enjoy fine pan-American cuisine. Okay, maybe ‘fine’ is a strong word.
Maybe that expensive piece of paper represents the all-nighters you’ve pulled, trying to finish an essay—or maybe two. Or perhaps that paper represents the memory of a beautiful May afternoon in the spring of our first year, when a large amount of students, faculty and staff congregated to celebrate the Flame’s fortieth birthday, only to be interrupted by dozens of naked men—and one courageous, naked woman—bravely sprinting to the statue.
Some of the memories might be tied to the success that our class has seen in the athletic department: nationally-competitive individuals and teams in everything from the football team’s great season to having multiple All-Americans in various sports. Although we had no female Anthony Davis, I don’t think anyone would—or could—browbeat the women’s basketball team this year as they made it to the D3 Sweet Sixteen.
In our four years here, we have seen the addition of the Campus Center and the renovation of countless buildings. We experienced the decibel output of power drills when we tried to hear our professors during the Young Hall construction. We saw the transformation of an administrative building into a residence hall, which happened so fast that it must have been a ‘Breeze.’ We experienced Nevin Hall, which—no matter how hard anyone tries—will always smell the same.
This was all in four years. In that amount of time, we have spent countless hours building relationships with our roommates, classmates, professors and staff members. We have realized what matters most to us outside of the classroom: friendships, Facebook and flash dances. While these things might seem more like teenage dreams, they are certainly alive and well here on our campus and in our graduating class.
In reality, that piece of paper will represent all of these memories along with the memories of our own individual Centre Experiences. My own Centre Experience was put into perspective in the fall of last year when I stumbled upon an Old Centre yearbook from 1929. As has always been the case, Centre’s senior class was small, yet successful. After each senior’s photo, the yearbook staff wrote a short paragraph, which summed up that individual’s personality and experience here. On each page, I read about individuals who walked on these grounds and graduated from this place over 80 years ago.
This keyed me in to Centre’s real tradition and history. The Centre Experience is not a new concept. On March 27, 1903, Woodrow Wilson—then President of Princeton University—mentioned Centre in a speech:
“There is a little college down in Kentucky which in sixty years has graduated more men who have acquired prominence and fame than has Princeton in her 150 years.”
This magical school, in what some may call the ‘middle of nowhere,’ has been changing lives and graduating the leaders of tomorrow for the better part of 200 years. The history and tradition we have at this school has not been any more evident than it has been during the past few weeks, when the campus became abuzz with talk of the missing Centre Seal. I could almost guarantee that we wouldn’t hear much outcry if the ‘buzz saw’ statue in front of Chowan were stolen. Why, then, was the Seal steal such a big deal? Because of the traditions that we have and what it represents—because we, as Centre students, are tied to that oxidized metal. I’ll admit: it was fun to throw caution to the wind when I walked in front of Old Centre, but I wanted it back because it represents the timeless traditions and storied history of our College.
This is the true meaning of ‘Doctrina Lux Mentis,’ or ‘Education is the Light of the Mind.’ While those seniors from 1929 might have responded differently to a Girl Talk concert and Flame runs, we still remain inextricably tied to them. We all came into Centre College with promising minds desiring the illumination of education. After four years, we have received it. Whether it has been the education in the classroom where we have synthesized theories and ideas learned in our time here or the education outside of the classroom that comes with helping a friend through rough times, we have all received that illumination. As a class, we have stressed over exams together, laughed together, cried together and danced together. In just under three weeks, we will receive that expensive piece of paper together, and then will venture off to chase our dreams.
As the wise Western philosopher Snooki from the ‘Shore’ once said: “My ultimate dream is to move to Jersey, find a nice, juiced, hot, tanned guy and live my life.” That is her ultimate dream. With our minds now containing the light of education, we are equipped to pursue our ultimate dreams.
So, I ask again: is our diploma really worth it?
While I’m sure that we would all love to hear Snoop Dogg live and not have to worry about an indecent exposure citation, I think we all know that piece of paper and those invaluable memories are more than worth any money, hours of sleep and strands of hair we might have lost in these four years. We have received Centre’s personal education; now we can look forward to the extraordinary success that awaits us as well-rounded young adults. While those invaluable memories cannot be framed, they will forever provide us with laughter and enjoyment when we reflect on them—except for the Flame’s fortieth birthday. How about we all try and collectively forget about that one?
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Centre College, founded in 1819 and chosen to host its second Vice Presidential Debate in 2012, is ranked among the U.S. News top 50 national liberal arts colleges, at 42nd in the nation, and ranks 27th for best value among national liberal arts colleges. Forbes magazine ranks Centre 34th among all the nation’s colleges and universities and has named Centre in the top five among all institutions of higher education in the South for three years in a row. Centre is also ranked fourth in the nation by U.S. News for its study abroad program. For more, click here.