2014 Distinguished Alumni Event
Dr. Tony Frank, President
October 16, 2014
I’m going to speak this evening about 2 things: Predictability and Breathing
- In some ways, these remarks are not predictable – because I’m not going to highlight for you records in enrollment, retention, graduation, research, reputation, donors, philanthropy and alumni participation. I’m not going to do that because we’re here this evening not to celebrate the university – but to celebrate its most precious resource: you, our alumni.
- But in other ways, these remarks are predictable in that I’m going to mention Lincoln.
- As I read the accomplishments of the awardees, I’m struck each year by 2 paradoxical thoughts.
- First, Lincoln couldn’t have imagined any of you; not the world we live in nor the contributions you’ve made to it.
- But in another, I think you may have been exactly what he envisioned: talented and motivated people who, when given access to one of the finest educations in the world, accomplished astonishing things.
- I learned yesterday that one of Lincoln’s favorite works – especially later in his life – was Shakespeare’s “MacBeth.”
- “Will all the water in the ocean wash this blood from my hands? No, instead my hands will stain the seas scarlet, turning the green waters red.” Yes – THAT MacBeth.
- There’s at least one theory here that Lincoln was haunted by the idea that there might have been a way to save the Union without the Civil War; that he had chosen the wrong path, leading to the terribly bloody conflict that consumed his presidency, his nation, and eventually his own life.
- Many have marveled at Lincoln’s insightful investments in the nation’s future in the face of the Civil War – in 1862 alone there were the Transcontinental Railroad, the Department of Agriculture, the National Academies and the Morrill Act.
- Were these attempts to wash the blood from his own hands?
- Only Lincoln will ever know what he was thinking when he unchained the power of the human mind with the signing of the Morrill Act, but that action – that movement of his hand that caused the motion of his pen – that caused other actions.
- Not equal and opposite per Newton, but a sequential building – a wave of contributions that has literally changed our world.
- In fact, each day, throughout our world, tens of thousands of alumni put their CSU education to work in remarkable ways; doing things as dazzling as commanding a space shuttle, and as simple as reading their child to sleep after a long day of work. Tonight alone, we’ve honored:
- Young alumni who have dedicated themselves to serving others.
- Transformative faculty members and accomplished professionals.
- Game-changing philanthropists.
And there are three awards yet to be presented – the Jim and Nadine Henry Award, the Charles A. Lory Public Service Award, and the William E. Morgan Alumni Achievement Award – awards named for people who transformed this university. And the recipients of these awards are people I know. They are the sort of people who, when you go home tonight, you’ll think that you’re proud to share a connection with them.
- The theme across all of these awardees is action – motion and movement that they have caused.
- A few weeks ago we gathered to celebrate the Morgan and Lory Societies and the theme the committee chose was “windows.”
- I reflected that evening about the etymology of “window,”deriving from a sequence of words meaning “to see air in motion.”
- Of course if one uses the dictionary, movement of air fulfills the physiological definition of breathing – of “inhalation”; also termed “inspiration.”
- But there is, as well, another meaning of inspiration: “to fill with an exalting influence.”
- And the etymology here goes back to Latin roots meaning “to inflame with a purpose.”
So whether tonight’s awardees briefly make you catch your breath or you leave here inflamed with a purpose, there is no doubt that they have produced – in each of us – inspiration.
Thank you for being here.