Summa Cum Laude Dinner

Below are President Glasser's remarks from the Summa Cum Laude Dinner on May 9, 2012.

Welcome to our summa cum laude dinner – a night in which we recognize outstanding academic achievement by our students and the faculty members who teach, guide and mentor them throughout their time at Bradley. Our room is filled with the best and the brightest, and it is a privilege to be among you tonight.

Graduating summa cum laude is no small feat. Only a fraction of those who will receive diplomas on Saturday can boast that achievement. But you know that. You know how hard you worked to get to the finish line, and you should be so proud of what you accomplished. You are here tonight because you took your classes seriously, you listened and asked questions, and you applied what you learned in the classroom to group projects, internships and part-time jobs. These qualities will serve you well in the months and years to come.

While much of your success is a result of self-discipline, dedication and occasionally sacrificing your social life and other non-academic activities, I think you’ll agree that it took some additional help to get you here – from your families, your peers, your coaches, your advisers and, most of all, your professors.

Please allow me to recognize our faculty members for their extraordinary contributions. You are outstanding educators who play the most vital role in the success of our students. With professional skills, ongoing reflection and refinement of pedagogy, you help students realize their potential both inside and outside the classroom. The Bradley community is truly blessed to be surrounded by such talented, committed teacher-scholars.

The fact that you were invited here tonight by your students says a great deal about the influence you had on them. The faculty members in this room epitomize what we call the Bradley Experience – that close, personal connection to students and to learning. Your successes are before you tonight.

Students, I hope you take a moment to thank your professors for all they’ve done. Their influence on you will last years, in some cases a lifetime.

The faculty expects nothing less than the best from you, and their expectations won’t end just because you are graduating. As entrepreneur Sam Walton said: “High expectations are the key to everything.” We know what you’re capable of, we expect you to succeed in your endeavors, and we look forward to hearing about your experiences.

In 2012, the rising importance of a college education reflects the demands of our global economy. In recent years, we have seen exponential growth in communications, information technology, entrepreneurship, and many other fields; this technological revolution has broken down barriers between the United States and overseas markets, creating a single, interconnected global economy.

Former Caterpillar C-E-O Jim Owens addressed economic globalization recently in a speech on our campus. He said American business and industry – and by extension American workers – must “win” in foreign markets if they are to survive. Growth in the years ahead will be in China, India, Brazil and other emerging economies – that is the global economy you will face.

Caterpillar is a leader in those areas; the company’s sales rose 21 percent in Africa, the Middle East and Europe in March and 15 percent in Asia. The trend is clear.

Those entering the workforce no longer compete for jobs against graduates from a neighboring city or state. You are competing across the world. For today’s graduates, it doesn’t matter where you live, but rather what you have learned. Your world-class Bradley education – and especially the summa cum laude honors you earned – will provide a pathway to opportunity — a pathway to whatever career you choose, whether that takes you to Peoria or Pittsburg, Paris or Pretoria.

In this challenging economy, summa cum laude honors will set you apart. You did not earn the highest academic distinction without being challenged by the rigors of a Bradley education. You took the most demanding courses and excelled. I know you will take the same energy, perseverance and creativity into the next step on life’s journey.

As a Bradley graduate, you are well prepared. On average, 92 percent of Bradley graduates accept positions in their chosen fields or enroll in graduate school within the first six months after leaving the hilltop. That is an impressive statistic, particularly when compared with recent reports that half of new college graduates are jobless or underemployed. We have a record of success.

I would like to briefly highlight one summa graduate who will be using her skills and knowledge on a global level. Brittany Horton was awarded a prestigious Fulbright Fellowship in Asia. As a Fulbright English teaching assistant in South Korea, Brittany will spend a year living and teaching in Korea. Congratulations to you Brittany for that outstanding honor, and we look forward to hearing from you later this evening.

All of you, including Brittany, will face both excitement and challenges on the road ahead. But I know you will draw upon your skills, knowledge and character to navigate life’s complexities and reach your goals.

Success has many definitions, but according to a recent survey of 75 business leaders with Stanford MBAs, the most important predictor of success is self-awareness. That means knowing your own strengths and weaknesses, and working to improve and learn every day. Understand your passions – what gets you going – and pursue those with zeal. Live the life you imagine, as Thoreau said.

So don’t settle for less than your best and, after your career here, I suspect you’ll heed that advice. My hope for each of you is that your Bradley education mixed with your boundless potential will create your own definition of success.

In the words of the immortal Henry Ford, great-grandfather of our commencement speaker on Saturday: “Before everything else, getting ready is the secret of success.”

Based on your accomplishments, you are ready. You all have a wide-open future ahead of you, and I can’t wait to see the paths you choose and the successes you’ll have. I’m so pleased you chose to grow and learn at Bradley. Congratulations on your accomplishments. The best is yet to come.