Good morning graduates, family, friends, faculty, staff, trustees, alums, founders, and the entire greater Unity College community.

It is my pleasure to welcome you all to the 2019 May commencement ceremony.

One of the greatest honors of a president is to preside over graduation. As with every graduation ceremony, we send out the next generation of responsible environmental global citizens into the world, and I know that you — the Graduating Class of 2019 — will build on the legacy of those who came before you.

From here, you are beginning your journey to become experts in bird rehabilitation, developers at sustainable salmon fisheries, rangers in the National Park system, or earning a promotion after receiving your graduate degree — just to name a few. You will go on to become graduate students and lead your own research projects. You will go on to become entrepreneurs, start your own businesses, or become thought leaders in solving the 21st-century environmental issues.

No matter what path you choose, the most important path, Class of 2019, is the one that leaves you wicked ready for whatever challenges you face.

I know this, because I’ve seen the incredible work and in-depth research you have put into the Student Conference, as well as master’s degree capstone projects. I have seen six of our Conservation Law Enforcement students fill all of last summer’s Deputy Game Warden positions in Maine. I have seen you present on the Maine Nightjar Monitoring Project. I have seen your online postings as you discussed the climate issues of our time. I have seen you participate in graduate and undergraduate research that I would stack up against any in the country, alongside faculty members who have earned Fulbright Scholarships; been inducted into the oldest active biological society in the world; and received grants from prestigious organizations.

On a more personal level, I’ve had the honor of performing first cut at the annual woodsmen’s meet with you. I have parked cars with you at the grand opening of McKay Farm and Research Station. I have helped you pick up after the student-led game supper. I have followed your progress and blog posts as you studied marine biology and digital media in Curacao. I have watched you manifest atoms into superheroes in one of your chemistry courses. I cheered you on when you scored that goal, served that ace, and added to your tally to reach 1,000 points. I swung a hammer, as students from the Trail Crew taught me how to install footbridges to improve the Hill to Sea trail.

Class of 2019, I want to thank you for the immersive work that you have done to help strengthen our community, and for inviting me to be a part of that work with you. My only regret is that I wasn’t able to attend them all.

Watching you grow, on and offline, and experiencing the work you have done here and all over the country, it has been an honor to learn alongside you.

I want to re-emphasize this word, alongside. This is important to me, because you are not sitting on the sidelines here at Unity College, but taking an active role right next to our incredibly accomplished faculty and staff. Whether you fully appreciate it now or not, it is that work that will help you stand out when you enter into a career, choose to serve, continue your education, or any path you may choose from here.

You signed up to attend Unity College for a reason. Graduates, as you know, this is not the kind of school where learn simply by sitting in a classroom or researching on your laptop. You’ve spent time learning from your faculty and your peers to become environmental stewards. That takes grit. That takes resiliency. That takes passion. That takes synergy within our ever-expanding community.

It also takes support and drive. Support from your family, support from your friends, and support from your community. That coupled with your drive is what brought you to Unity College, and it is what will propel you into the next chapter of your life.
Has it come easy? Will it come easy? Of course not. It wasn’t ever meant to be, as nothing worthwhile ever is. I’m sure many of you would agree that getting to this point, today, was not easy. More than likely, you spent long nights and early mornings to overcome academic, emotional, personal, and professional challenges to get to where you are today.

No, it has not been easy. But here you are. You have persevered. You have thrived. And you are becoming mature, responsible environmental citizens. You are becoming Unity College alums. And I can assure you, all the work you put in is worth it. And if you continue to work as hard as you have over these past years, that too will be worth it.

It is important to remember as you go out into the world, that the only thing that is constant is change. Darwin’s work is often summarized as such: It is not the most intellectual of the species that survives; nor the strongest; but the one that is best able to adjust, adapt, and change. You, graduates, have change in your DNA. You can adapt to whatever comes next in your lives, and I’m certain that you will, because we prepared you for just that. Rest assured, there are many changes you can anticipate, such as the continued rapid development of technology and constant shifts in demographics. Then there are fluctuating job rates; unpredictable inflation; the current environmental crises; and much more that we cannot see coming.

That being said, I can confidently assert, Class of 2019, that you have the foundation and the pedigree needed to take the next steps into this challenging green economy on a global scale. And I speak for all of us here at Unity College when I say that we cannot wait to see what those next steps are. Please, share your stories, share your successes, and share your adventures not only with us, but with the world. And be proud of the college that helped you along your path.

I would like to end today by paraphrasing a quote from Maya Angelou: Class of 2019, your mission in life should not be to merely survive, but to thrive. To thrive, and to do so with passion, with compassion, with humor, but most importantly, with pinochle.

So I urge you to keep these words top of mind, as you go forth from Unity College eager to change the world.

Bon chance, Class of 2019. May the grass be green, may the rain be clean, and may your hearts be pure.

Thank you very much.