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.

Honors Degree Award Ceremony
Trabant University Center
May 27, 2011

Good morning. I’m delighted to help welcome you to our Honors Degree Awards Ceremony. This ceremony is a Commencement Weekend tradition, and it’s a special one. Because, this morning, we celebrate more than 200 students who have truly excelled; who have gone beyond what was required of them, testing themselves and their abilities.

It wasn’t an easy test. It wasn’t supposed to be. It was a test that lasted four years, and it took intense study, a lot of late nights in the lab or the library, maybe some panic attacks along the way. But it was also a test that gave you this close community of students—fellow scholars—who knew exactly what you were going through, because they were going through it, too.

It gave you professors, advisors, and mentors who encouraged and supported you. Who really knew you. And, most of all, who worked with you on meaningful research—on projects typically accessible only to grad students. It gave you experiences you wouldn’t have had otherwise—experiences that I’m guessing either refined your goals, or gave you a huge leg up on achieving them. I certainly hope this test gave you confidence in your academic abilities—it should have. And I hope it fueled a desire to continue your scholarship, to see where your passion and perseverance will take you.

Of course, in the most literal terms, what this test gave you was this degree—a University of Delaware Honors Degree or an Honors Degree with Distinction. It is a passport to some really great things down the road for you. Because in the extra ink we expend on those couple of words—“honors,” “distinction”—is everything I just talked about: the desire to excel; the dedication and extra effort; the passion for your field; the uncommon experiences; the rare talent.

I thank all our Honors students for being brave, for being a little audacious, and for giving the students coming after you license to be the same. Let’s recognize our Honors graduates with a round of applause.

I thank all the parents here today for imbuing in these graduates three things I think are prerequisites for an Honors degree: initiative, independence, and drive. If this degree says a lot about your children (and it does), it also says a lot about the households they grew up in and the families that loved them along the way.

And so I thank you for valuing education and effort, for giving your children a safe and encouraging place to pursue their academic interests, and for being here today so that they can see just how proud of them you are. Let’s give all the families here a round of applause.

I thank the faculty advisors, deans, and department chairs who’ve provided these graduates guidance and wise counsel—a new way of looking at things that can turn a crisis into a small course correction.

Academically, you’re like a surrogate family. I’m sure you’ve fielded your share of urgent phone calls, penciled in all the last-minute appointments your schedule could handle, and celebrated each milestone along the way. You’re doing important work—time-consuming, important work.

But I imagine seeing the product of that work is something of a pay-back. Just look at what your investment has yielded. Let’s give all the faculty and administrators in the room a round of applause.

I congratulate the Honors graduates of 2011, and I wish you all the best as your paths unfold.

Thank you.

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