Chancellor Douglas A. Girod

2010 Commencement Address: The Jayhawk Family

Sunday, May 16, 2010

So - we made it.

It does not look like a very long walk. Something you can do in a few minutes going down, a few more going up. But when you think back on what it took to get here - the late nights, the papers and finals - it turns a simple stroll into a monumental, multi-year journey.

But now you have arrived at an important destination in life, and I am proud to have been able to share the last year of this journey with you.

I join the faculty and staff, and your family and friends who are gathered here today, to congratulate you on becoming graduates of the University of Kansas. It is a momentous occasion, one we mark with one of KU's greatest traditions - the walk down the hill.

Over the past year I have learned about the many traditions that set KU apart. I have heard about the history of the Rock Chalk Chant from the granddaughter of its creator. I have talked with Hal Sandy, who gave us the modern Jayhawk. I have waved the wheat and sung the alma mater, and am even close to mastering the special hand clap that goes along with the fight song.

Each of these traditions ties the Jayhawk family together, and each has a special meaning.

The walk down the hill symbolizes the journey you are on. A journey you began even before you thought of attending KU, and one that will continue long after you walk out of the stadium and into the world.

As I said at Convocation, we each have different routes and different destinations, and none of us know precisely where our individual journeys will lead. But thanks to the education you received from the men and women who greeted you as you entered the stadium, you are well prepared to deal with any uncertainty that tomorrow will bring.

Even if you know where you are going to work and live, there are still lingering questions. Will I like my new job? What will my coworkers and neighbors be like? And will I be able to find the KU games on TV?

I understand how you feel. I was born in North Carolina and spent virtually my entire career at Chapel Hill. I went from a place where I knew just about everyone -- and some days thought I knew just about everything -- to a place where I knew virtually no one and had to learn about a new university and new state.

You did that too, when you first arrived here on Mount Oread. And now you are preparing to do it again. Taking that first step in a new direction is both daunting and exciting. And it is important to remember the constants in our lives, one of which is the need to be committed to something you are really interested in.

I hope you have used your time at KU to find your passion, even if it required changing majors a few times along the way. If you did not find your passion while at KU, there is still time. The commencement ceremony does not end for several more minutes.

But if you are doing something you love, all the rest of life's questions will have a way of answering themselves.

And as you think about tomorrow and the changes it will bring, remember that there are other constants. Like the love and support of your family - a family that now includes the more than 300,000 Jayhawks who have shared the experience of being at KU.

Since I arrived last fall I have been learning what it means to be in this family. One of the first things I learned is that the Jayhawk family is open to all, yet only fully understood by those who have shared in this experience.

Jon Sabillon told me he has lived in Lawrence since the second grade, but he did not truly understand what it meant to be a Jayhawk until he was with his classmates, arms linked as they sang the alma mater.

But now, like you, he is part of this family. And it is a family that has a global reach.

Kristen Liszewski shared a story about being in line at a theme park in Florida when a family about 30 people in front of her in line yelled out "Rock Chalk!" after seeing her friend's Jayhawk hat.

And Megan Do told me about how she made an instant connection with a summer internship coordinator by bonding over memories of KU, including whether one of his favorite pizza places was still open.

Being a Jayhawk opens so many doors, not only because of the knowledge and experience you gained here, but because of the relationships you formed here. But being a Jayhawk also entails certain responsibilities.

Always seek to help others, especially your fellow Jayhawks. This university is devoted to service, and I know you will continue to serve others. I also know you will benefit from the help and support of your fellow Jayhawks as you start your careers, and I call on you to do the same for the next generation that walks down the Hill.

Keep learning and growing. Just because the papers are written and tests turned in, does not mean your journey as scholars is over. We live in a remarkable time in human history, one where the pace of change requires us to constantly be seeking new knowledge in order to succeed in our jobs and in our lives.

And always wear at least one piece of Jayhawk gear when you travel. Because when you hear "Rock Chalk!" across the terminal or across the street, you will be reminded of this family and of all the promise and opportunity that being a Jayhawk entails.

I have learned this is a truly remarkable family, and I am honored to have been so warmly welcomed into it.

Now, one thing about families is that they take family photos on special occasions. Since today is a very special occasion, I think we should take some family photos.

This is something Chancellor Hemenway first did last year, and I think it is worthy of becoming a tradition.

So get out your camera phones and take a picture with your fellow members of the Jayhawk family. They can be your actual family members, the friends you walked down the Hill with, or the graduates sitting next to you that you had not met until today - you are all part of one family now.

Take a photo and send it to We will put them up at to remember our Jayhawk family's special occasion.

Everybody got their photos? Ok, send them to and check KU's Facebook page later today to see them.

Like other family photos, you can look back at these pictures in the years to come and remember the joy and excitement of this day when the entire world stretches out before you, just waiting to be explored.

Congratulations, Jayhawks! Best of luck! And Rock Chalk!

One of 34 U.S. public institutions in the prestigious Association of American Universities
44 nationally ranked graduate programs.
—U.S. News & World Report
Top 50 nationwide for size of library collection.
5th nationwide for service to veterans —"Best for Vets: Colleges," Military Times
Chancellor's Vision

The mission of the University of Kansas is to lift students and society by educating leaders, building healthy communities, and making discoveries that change the world.

We will do that by raising the expectations we have for ourselves, the aspirations we have for our state, and the hopes we have for our world.