Hello again, Jayhawks!
Well, here we are. Commencement Sunday.
While this is not my first Commencement, it is my first Commencement as your Chancellor. And as I stand here today, looking at all of you, I could not be more proud or more hopeful for the future.
This is a day you’ve been working toward for years. This is the day your hard work, the late nights and stressful final exams all pay off.
It is a joy to be with you this morning … and to be among the first to congratulate you on this milestone.
This is a special day for you and your families. And I will tell you, it’s also a special day for us — the faculty and staff at KU.
You see, the University of Kansas contributes to society through education, service and scholarship. But our greatest contribution to society is you — the graduates we send out into the world so that you can make it better. Nothing makes us more proud than when our graduates use the skills and passion they developed at KU to benefit their communities, their organizations and our society. That’s what higher education is all about. That’s what being a Jayhawk is all about.
As I look up into the stands, I see a range of emotions on our graduates’ faces. I see pride. I see joy. I see excitement. I see sleep-deprivation. And I think on some faces, I see a bit of anxiety.
And you know what? It’s normal to feel a little anxiety as you close a chapter of your life. As you transition to the next phase of your lives and careers you will move into a world that is complicated, unpredictable and it is not always fair.
But you will also find a world that is full of opportunity. With that in mind, I’d like to share a piece of advice with you, followed by a prediction.
First, the advice: Don’t get too hung up on thinking your career path will be – or should be – a straight line.
During the next few years, your lives and careers will take you in all kinds of directions. You’ll become interested in new topics, new places, and new causes. You’ll meet new people, which will help you see the world differently.
Technology continues to grow at an exponential rate which changes our lives every day. In fact, it is predicted that today’s college graduate will change careers – not jobs – but careers seven times in their lifetime!
Certainly my own career path was anything but straight. I finished high school headed into electrical engineering, then shifted to chemistry, then to medicine, and on to surgery. From there I focused on surgical oncology and reconstructive surgery. My path took me to a career in the Navy. From there to academic medicine at KU and then into healthcare administration and finally into university administration.
That path was not one I could ever foresee, anticipate or predict or plan for when I was sitting in your seat. But at every step of the way, I was exposed to new fields, encountered new mentors and took advantage of new opportunities. And I drew on my strong educational background — the same background each of you has as a KU graduate — to pursue new options.
Over the next few years, you’re going to learn and try new things every day, both in your professional life and personal life. This is all part of the journey. So embrace this journey. And don’t forget to enjoy the journey.
In the 10 months since becoming your Chancellor I have traveled our five campuses and crossed the state and the nation to meet with amazing Jayhawks from all walks of life. Alumni who gone on to become presidents of countries, Nobel laureates, governors, astronauts, CEOs of corporations, entrepreneurs, novelists, journalists, scientists, teachers, doctors, lawyers and more.
And today, you join the ranks of these KU alumni.
Earlier you heard the inspiring story of Dr. Weinshilboum, a KU alumnus and pioneering researcher whose work is enabling doctors to customize treatments for individual patients based on their genetic profile. In other words, he, like other KU alumni, is using the skills and mindset he developed at KU to improve lives, save lives, and change the world.
When Dr. Weinshilboum graduated from KU, no one was even thinking about the topic that would become his life’s work. And, over time, through hard work, his creativity, and his perseverance, he helped create an entire field of study and make it a reality. And today his work is helping patients all over the globe.
Graduates — that’s what being a Jayhawk is all about.
When you leave here today, my hope for you is that you will not only pursue a meaningful life and career for yourself, but that you’ll always seek ways to improve the lives of people around you.
I promised you a prediction, so here it is: If you look to your left, and then look to your right, you’ll see someone who will have the next great idea that no one’s even considered yet but will end up making an enormous contribution to our world.
And maybe – just maybe – that person is you.
So as you leave KU today ...
Be strong. Be smart. Do the right thing. Use your talents to enhance yourselves but also your communities. Remember those who provided you with opportunity, and make sure to provide opportunities to others…
And remember ... once a Jayhawk, always a Jayhawk!
Now, graduates, will you please rise!
By the authority vested in me by the Board of Regents of the State of Kansas, and upon the recommendation of the several faculties of the university, I now confer upon each of you the degree appropriate to your course of study, entitling you to all the rights, privileges and responsibilities pertaining to that degree.
Congratulations and Rock Chalk!