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.
Doctoral Hooding & Convocation
January 8, 2010
Thank you, Debbie. Good afternoon and congratulations!
I imagine this is a pretty good start to 2010 for all of you. If “Earn doctorate” was among your New Year’s resolutions, just go ahead and scratch that one off the list.
As great a day as this is for you, it’s a great one for the University, too. Because, to a large degree, it’s your scholarship and your research—your dedication to your discipline and your groundbreaking work in it—that make UD such a compelling place to be. Our Path to Prominence, which I invoke so often, is paved with dissertations like the ones Debbie just mentioned.
You’re the reason why the University of Delaware is gaining a name as one of the nation’s premier research and graduate institutions, why we’ve just broken the top 100 in federal obligations for science and engineering R&D, why our reputation and our profile are rising so rapidly.
And, while I thank you for contributing so richly to UD’s acclaim, it’s clearly NOT why you dedicated the last several years of your lives to this degree.
“This degree” is a remarkable one, and it demands that a remarkable person earn it. By the numbers alone, what you’ve accomplished is extraordinary. Just 1 percent of U.S. adults hold a doctorate. And that’s because the path to it is long and hard, exhausting and—yes—frustrating. It’s not often you’re asked to devote years of your life to something very specific, often esoteric, and then—at the very end—made to publicly defend your decision to do so.
Without doubt, attaining this degree takes equal parts passion and perseverance—and it takes both parts in larger quantities than most people can fathom. But I think the most gratifying thing about membership in this top 1 percent is knowing the powerful benefit to be claimed by the other 99.
In a very real way, your scholarship is a profound act of service—with significant material effect: It will make people healthier and happier, lives fuller, communities safer, and the world more verdant.
And then there’s the transcendent effect: Your work will advance our understanding of our spiritual and physical existence, our understanding of ourselves and each other.Your work will help us test the world around us—find its limitations and its possibilities. Your work will shrink the unknown, diminish the untried, and expand our human capacity—not just for knowledge and technique, but for care and consideration and compassion.
But there’s also something more subtle at play. Your study succeeds beyond its defined parameters and discrete outcomes. It betters humanity—our nature, our outlook, our optimism, what we prize and what we strive for. It contributes to a richer intellectual life, where questions are welcomed and curiosity rewarded—where an open, vigorous mind is valued above all else. And, finally, your work is scaffolding for future scholarship. Whatever you care to call it—the bedrock, the soil, the spark—it will be the leaping-off point for study and innovation we can scarcely imagine today. Your ideas will inspire a whole new generation of thinkers who will owe a portion of their academic success to yours. And, in that way, the work you’ve done here at the University of Delaware will live on. You will leave a legacy that matters.
In our Path to Prominence, we say that the University of Delaware has the opportunity—and the obligation—to contribute to the advancement of knowledge, and to marshal that knowledge for the benefit of humanity. We say that the University will nurture the intellectual leaders who will help solve the world’s most intractable problems. You are those leaders. And it’s your intellectual leadership we need right now.
I look at the kind of important, influential work being undertaken right here, by the people sitting right in front of me—work that has put us in the top tier of U.S. research universities—and I know that our leadership mission is well within reach. I know that we’re creating a culture of excellence, and bringing together the resources that breed breakthroughs.
And, most exciting of all, I know that the work you completed here is just the beginning for you, that far greater things will come, that discovery and invention and innovation will punctuate long and important careers. For you may have earned a terminal degree, but that hardly means your work terminates. We all know it means quite the opposite.
And so on behalf of the people your sustained scholarship will help, for all the pernicious problems your research will solve, I thank you. And I ask that you continue to be guided by the responsibilities your degree confers: to pursue truth and prioritize compassion, to improve the lives of others and the world in which they live, to expand the boundaries of human understanding and contribute doggedly to a body of knowledge that will help perfect us as a people.
I congratulate each and every one of you.
Before I turn over the podium, there are others here who deserve our recognition. Doctoral study, particularly dissertation writing, can certainly seem a solitary pursuit, but it’s not. Through the years, you’ve been fortunate to rely on a team of faculty and colleagues—advisors, mentors, readers, and editors—standing firmly beside you, offering you insight, advice, and perspective: three things every doctoral candidate needs in great quantities. Your success is a persuasive testament to their skill, dedication, and friendship. They deserve our gratitude and applause.
And, finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank the families and friends with us today. Without their encouragement and support, your road to this degree would have been longer and infinitely tougher. I know you’d like to join me in acknowledging them.
Congratulations again to all of you. You’ve made UD enormously proud!