Student Government Association President Joseph Hunter VanderToll ’16, of Prospect, Ky., provided the senior class response during the 193rd Centre College Commencement on May 22, 2016, in Newlin Hall of the Norton Center for the Arts.
Well, we made it. The day finally came. Four years ago we arrived on Centre’s campus all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed ready for the experience of a lifetime. Yes, we had heard that college would change us but nothing could have prepared us for the transformative journey that seems to have occurred in the blink of an eye.
As Centre students, we were told that we were some of the most driven, gifted, promising students in the country. With theses accolades in our belt we started our Centre Careers knowing that success was imminent.
We began our Freshman Fall as the national spotlight fell on our little College with the Vice Presidential Debate in this very hall. A sitting Vice President, members of Congress, national media names all descended on campus as the entire student body sported really lovely red AARP lanyards to ID ourselves to the Secret Service. However, seeing the Norton Centre on Saturday Night Live pretty much made up for this small inconvenience.
Something else though occurred freshman year that I think has had a profound impact on this College. The night before classes began we gathered in front of Crounse Hall for the unveiling of a new addition to campus—The Centre Lincoln. After a small snag of the veil and some quick thinking with a broom handle, there he stood caste in bronze with a book in his hand on a foundation of granite.
On the right side of this foundation reads a quote by Abraham Lincoln: “I’m a success today because I had a friend who believed in me and I didn’t have the heart to let him down.” I believe this quote perfectly captures how we as Centre students should view success.
Our successes aren’t based on the diploma we are about to receive or the numbers on our G.P.A., it comes from each other. The relationships we have made over these past 4 years are worth much much more than any one job or starting salary. Measure success by looking around at those sitting on this stage. The community we have here at Centre spurs each other on to be the most thoughtful, driven and passionate students in the country. And the wonderful thing about that is that it will continue long after our four years here on this campus.
In our jobs, research, grad schools, military service we will continually keep the relationships that we have built. Friendships forged from braving the eternally long walk from Brockman and Pearl or daring one another to order a milkshake at the Grille after midnight. The Centre Mafia is alive and well and as alums we know that we will have each other to help us guide ourselves through the real world.
A phone call, text message, Snapchat and instantly you are in contact with someone who knows what it means to be a Colonel and knows the Centre experience—our experience. Though we have spent these four years in a place that is very different from the real world, I cannot imagine a better environment to prepare for that rude awakening.
We will be successful because we have each other.
So Class of 2016, here we sit on the precipice of the rest of our lives. These last four years full of late night Speedway runs, Grille food, dinner with professors, papers, tests, and maybe one too many “flame runs” have culminated to this. Our journey is not ending, it is just beginning.
To the professors, thank you for your ceaseless investment in our lives and that personal education truly goes hand in hand with extraordinary success.
To Dr. and Mrs. Roush, thank you for your guidance, encouragement, and support over the last four years. Your investment to myself and this class has been invaluable.
To the Class of 2016, I thank you. You have been the most inspirational group of people I have ever known. May we go and change the world but never forget you have friends who will never let you down.
Delivered by Student Government Association President Hunt VanderToll ’16
May 22, 2016