Office of the President

Dr. Patrick T. Harker is the 26th president of the University of Delaware. He also serves as professor of business administration in the Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics and professor of civil and environmental engineering in the College of Engineering.

Winter Commencement
Bob Carpenter Center
January 12, 2014

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Congratulations to all of our new graduates and to everyone here who’s had a hand in this day: the faculty who taught you, the advisors who counseled you, the family and friends who have loved you and cheered you on through it all.

Every person here deserves a round of applause.


I promise not to take up too much of your time. I know you’re just waiting to hear what Liz Ann Sonders has to say about where to invest your first paycheck. I’ve already taken some notes myself.

There’s no better way to begin the New Year than with Commencement. It’s apt—to begin with a beginning. This is a smaller celebration than the one we hold in spring. More intimate. I can see everyone here; you can all see each other. And I think it’s sometimes easier to cultivate a sense of community among a few hundred graduates rather than a few thousand.

Of course Winter Commencement is smaller because you’re outliers. Some of you finished up your degree in under four years. Some of you took longer than four.

You ran your own race.


Breann Luff is graduating a semester early so that she can start working full-time and begin paying back her grandfather, who helped her through school.

Breann was a young girl when her Mom passed away. It was the close relationship she developed with her grandfather, who stepped in to raise her, that made Breann want to help others—to pass on those priceless gifts of encouragement and support.

On her way to degrees in Psychology and Women’s Studies, she became an RA, a peer mentor with the Blue Hen Leadership Program and with our First-Year Seminars. To her fellow students, she became that voice—that “Yes You Can” voice—the same way her grandfather was that voice for her.


Cory Donovan began his college career in our Associate in Arts program in Wilmington. He finished up the program in two years and came here to Newark.

Despite some challenges along the way—challenges that would test even the toughest among us—Cory undertook independent research alongside his regular coursework, exploring the impact of urbanization on the Christina River Basin. He graduates today with a degree in Geography.

A race of strength and perseverance.


Milos Markis came as a freshman to UD … nine years ago. If he were getting his bachelor’s degree today, we might give him an award for persistence. But considering those nine years have earned him a Ph.D. in Animal and Food Sciences—and national recognition in avian pathology—I think we might have to give him an award for speed.


Rob Bryant was enrolled in UD’s Mechanical Engineering program while working as a technician at Gore. For his senior design project, Rob was on the award-winning QuadCrew, a team of students that developed an adaptive rowing system for people with disabilities. The group has filed three provisional patents on the technology.

With this degree, Rob’s hoping to become one of Gore’s full-time, full-fledged engineers.

Meanwhile, Melanie Davis also worked her way through our Mechanical Engineering program. She, too, is employed at Gore. Melanie’s senior design project was with Rope-It Golf, a startup launched just a couple of years ago by two Lerner graduates.

Like Rob, Melanie’s planning to turn her degree into a terrific engineering job with Gore.

The two even went to the same high school together—right here in Newark. They sound perfect for each other … which is probably why they got married a few months ago. Congratulations.


Majoring in International Business, Jessica Santander had her heart set on studying Portuguese. When there weren’t enough Portuguese classes to fulfill her language requirement, she designed a workaround, supplementing her coursework with Spanish. For her semester abroad, she chose to study in Brazil—completely on her own—and took all of her classes in Portuguese, surrounded by native speakers.

Now she’s applying to MBA programs and hopes to go into global brand management.


Victoria Stanhope is graduating with an Honors degree in Exercise Science—and a 4.0. She’s had rich academic and research experiences throughout her college career.

But Victoria says the best decision she’s made here at UD was going to Ecuador over Spring Break last year, to help deliver basic healthcare to communities that had zero chance of receiving it otherwise. Talking about the gratitude that greeted the group, she says: “I didn’t deserve their thankfulness. I should have been the one thanking them for allowing me to serve them with the limited skills I had.”


Everyone here is running a race—of courage, compassion, determination, initiative. And it’s your race alone to run—your milestones, your hurdles, your personal best.

Graduating from college wasn’t your first tough or brave accomplishment. And it won’t be your last. Whatever your finish line is—happiness, fulfillment, a life of dedicated service, work with meaningful impact—I know you’ll find that fixing your eyes on that finish line is a lot more rewarding than looking back over your shoulder.

Your race is on. And the tape is always just ahead, waiting for you to break it. Don’t worry: There’s no one around for miles.

Good luck and congratulations!

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