Chancellor Douglas A. Girod

Speech: Chancellor Gray-Little's farewell to the Class of 2014

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Remarks as prepared for delivery

Hello again, Jayhawks!

It’s almost here – the moment when you officially become graduates of the University of Kansas.

But before we send you off into the world, I have a simple message for you, some words that I hope you’ll remember long after today:

Always strive to be something bigger than your selfie.

That’s right, selfie. In fact, just a minute...

Oh, and smile.

Now, why did I just take a selfie? Well, for me, and for all the faculty and staff at KU, you are the “something bigger” that we’ve dedicated our lives to.

The guidance and mentorship, the classes and, yes, even the exams – those are all how we help you become the leaders we expect all Jayhawks to become. 

So when I look at that photo, I’ll remember this day, when you reached this milestone in your lives, and I’ll think of all the great things that are still in store for you.

And I’ll do so already awed by the contributions you’ve made during your time at KU.

Contributions like those made by Beka Mullen, who helped lead the charge to create the BullDoc Health Center at Wyandotte High School in Kansas City. This clinic not only provides free health services, but Beka and her fellow volunteers serve as role models for those they are caring for. Beka becomes Doctor Mullen today as she graduates from the School of Medicine.

While he was at KU, Henry Clever saw the challenges faced by his uncle after a stroke left him paralyzed. Using his knowledge of engineering, Henry developed a new tool – he calls it the Ultramouse – which uses sensors to enable his uncle, who is also named Henry, to communicate more easily. Henry Clever graduates with his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering today, and says he is determined to use his talents as an engineer to help others.

Major Sonta Wilburn of the Overland Park Police Department also graduates today. She believes we need more female leaders, including in law enforcement. Her courses in ethics, leadership, and public service inspired her to create a group where female law enforcement officers can collaborate and find mentors. Major Wilburn graduates with her Master’s of Public Administration today, and is exactly the sort of leader we need more of.

Each of these stories reflects what it means be part of something bigger than yourself. Each of you has it within you to do far more than simply earn a good living, though I imagine that you – and your parents – have that at the forefront of your minds right now.

As KU graduates, you have within you the ability to earn a good living and lead a good life.

I said at the start of the ceremony that KU’s first mission is to educate leaders. You are those leaders – each one of you.

You are who our society will rely upon to solve the grand challenges of our time. You’ll write new symphonies and discover new medicines. You’ll bring fresh water to communities and fresh understanding to students and to those seeking objective news.

You’ll inspire others through your words and motion. You’ll run for office and run companies. You’ll counsel the stricken and heal the sick. Buildings will rise and injustices will fall, all because of you.

Sounds like a lot to ask. Maybe even too much.

I don’t think so. In fact, I know so, because I know what you’re capable of. I know this because I’ve seen what the Jayhawks who preceded you down the Hill have done. And because I’ve seen what you’ve done during your time at this university.

Today, in your cap and gown, you are a walking embodiment of being part of something bigger than yourself. And while some universities have banned taking selfies at graduation, I want you to remember this day, when you achieved this milestone, surrounded by all the fellow Jayhawks who walked the Hill with you.

So get out your phones and take a quick selfie to remember this moment, and all the hard work that led up to it.

We want to celebrate you, so when you’ve got your picture, send it to and we’ll post it on the KU Facebook page.

I said selfie – not selfies – so take a quick photo then send it to

Got ‘em?  Great.

Now, the moment you’ve been working toward for the past several years:

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, Jayhawks, 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.