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 Day
Trabant University Center
May 28, 2010

Good morning. I’m Pat Harker, president of the University of Delaware, and I’m truly privileged to welcome you to the University’s Honors Degree Awards Ceremony.

Four years ago, the students in this room set out on a formidable path. One might be tempted to say that this is the journey’s end, the culmination of a lot of hard work.

Of course, it’s not, really. It’s merely the beginning. All of us know these students will do many more great things from here. We know that this coveted degree—a symbol of their talent, their dedication, passion, and commitment—is a ticket to even more exciting times ahead.

There are a lot of people who stamped that ticket along the way, and I think they deserve our recognition and gratitude.

Let me start with the faculty advisors, deans, and department chairs who have been with you for four years now. They helped you turn dreams into plans, and ideas into action. They watched confidence grow from timidity, and certainty grow from ambivalence. They were invested in you, because your success is theirs, too.

Your provost, Tom Apple, says that quality spirals. He says that great faculty build compelling programs—that lure exceptional students—who draw great faculty. It’s a loop of excellence—an accumulating cycle. And so what you’ve already achieved—and what you will achieve—both are testaments to the guidance they provided, the talent they developed, and the encouragement they offered.

Along the way, you had dozens of professors and mentors who saw your potential—who nurtured it and tested it and celebrated it. They stamped this ticket of yours again and again—with every course correction and every milestone passed.

So the milestone you’ll reach either later today or tomorrow—the biggest one yet—is their achievement, too. I think they deserve a round of applause.


Now I’d like to talk to the families here. Your sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters—they may want to think they achieved all of this on their own. But we know better, right?

These successes are theirs, certainly, but you had something to do with them, too. Because while achievement can triumph over adversity, it more often thrives on support. Your guidance reinforced the conviction that scholarship is important and excellence achievable. You instilled in these men and women a drive to push themselves beyond ordinary, beyond acceptable—even beyond good.

Maybe they achieved, in part, because they encountered no viable option not to. You gave them space and time, license and encouragement to explore their interests, discover their passions, and accomplish remarkable things. You let them shine.

I doubt there’s anyone who’s stamped this ticket of theirs more than you. And for that we’re all profoundly grateful. Could we give all the families in the room a round of applause?


And now to the students. I’ll be brief because the sooner I leave this podium, the sooner we’ll hear a student-by-student summary of accomplishments. And what you’ve achieved will eclipse whatever I can say about it.

You’re here because you made a choice a few years ago to challenge yourselves. You made a choice to test your limits and take advantage of everything the University of Delaware had to offer you.

You’re here because you’re talented, too. And talent is important. But there is NO substitute for curiosity and drive and hard, hard work. You committed to these things, and you found a community of like-minded people: classmates, colleagues, and faculty who pushed you to do more—to not let youth or inexperience hold you back.

That’s good advice, by the way, because so much in this world is accomplished by people who didn’t know that they shouldn’t have dreamed it, shouldn’t have tried it, and shouldn’t have expected it to work.

And so I ask you to take this diploma—this invaluable ticket bearing all those stamps of encouragement and endorsement—and go do some truly great things.

Congratulations to all of you!

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