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.

Women of Promise
Trabant University Center
October 17, 2011

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This has become a wonderful tradition at UD, dedicating one night each year to the University’s women of promise, recognizing what you bring to the intellectual life of UD, and making a public commitment to support you on an academic journey that has many more milestones ahead.

I like the potential energy in the phrase “women of promise”—how it favors the future over the past. It’s a nod to the achievement that’s gotten you here, but really, it’s an acknowledgement that there’s so much more to come. You haven’t peaked yet. That must be reassuring.

A Community of Support
Of course, this evening doesn’t just honor the women whose promise we’ve predicted. It also showcases the community we’re building to support them—and those who come after them.
We haven’t built it yet. Most of you in this room know that. Some of you in this room have told me that.

But with every program like this one, with every faculty member who takes on the mentorship of a student, and introduces her to this network of academic talent, with every evening dedicated to strengthening and celebrating the connections among our women, we are creating the community—one whose influence will be felt far beyond this University.

And community is critically important. It’s what encourages you when discouragement seems the more practical option. It’s what pushes you forward when you’d rather just stop. I know we extol the virtues of intellect, ambition, passion, and hard work. And they are essential. But community can help you go further than even the sum of these attributes suggests.

So consider the women here tonight who’ve formed this community—the faculty who saw the promise in you and decided to nurture it. To be singled out in a student body as dynamic as UD’s is an honor. But to be singled out by women who are, themselves, so accomplished is an even greater one. Your faculty mentors have made the contributions to scholarship that we hope you’ll make one day. They’re forming the community we hope you will sustain. 

Sitting next to you is a mentor who will share her own experiences, triumphs, and challenges; who will listen to you and advise you; who will open doors and enable career-changing—life-changing—opportunities. What she’s giving you is an example and an advantage.

And you have to give her something in return. I hope that something is a commitment to sharing in the intellectual life of this University, to contributing your ideas, to taking risks and taking a stand, to saying “yes” to the rare and special chances that come your way. I hope it’s also a commitment to mentorship, to sustaining this cycle of support, and cultivating this community of women whose academic exceptionalism binds them together.

To the Faculty
I thank all the faculty here tonight for assuming the role of mentor. There’s little we do in our profession that’s more important than guiding those who come after us. But it is a significant commitment of time and energy—when I know so many other obligations are competing for both. I thank you for strengthening this University, for ensuring that women’s voices are heard, their talent developed, their careers furthered, and their achievements acknowledged.

We will not be the University I know we can be until we’re absolutely certain that all are able and encouraged to contribute fully. I’m deeply grateful that you’ve taken this work on.

To the Students
And to the students with us tonight, I congratulate you on gaining this great honor. I hope you’ll meet the many challenges that await your leadership and creativity. I hope you’ll call on this community for the support you’ll need to achieve everything we know you’re capable of achieving, to be the women whose extraordinary promise is fulfilled. And I hope you never forget the qualities that got you noticed in the first place.

Congratulations to you all.

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