Commencement remarks May 2014

Good afternoon everyone! It’s graduation day!  And unlike so many other important days, like birthdays, Mother’s & Father’s Day and other holidays, your college graduation is a once in a lifetime event.

Just a few short weeks ago it seemed like the cold weather would last a lifetime, but our interminable winter has been followed by a glorious spring. Today, at the University of South Carolina, we are gathered as family, friends, faculty and staff, to honor you in the springtime of your life — the Class of 2014.

I want you to enjoy every minute of your next phase of life because, as John Lennon said in the song Beautiful Boy, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”  So don’t let life slip away; enjoy every minute, and create great, new memories.

Graduates, doesn’t it seem like just yesterday you were moving into your freshman dorms? How did the time pass so quickly? Well, I’m a scientist and I think I can explain that to you. The saying that “time flies” actually has some scientific underpinning. 

Psychologists theorize that new experiences slow down our perception of time, while things we’ve done before  things we have repeated — seem to go faster. That’s why, when we’re driving to a new destination, it always seems to take longer to get there, than to get home. 

Or why the first two days of a weeklong vacation seem to last a good long while; then all of a sudden you’re packing for home. Well that’s what college is like. Getting from Freshman Convocation to Thanksgiving seems like you’ve spent a lifetime away from home. Then, all of a sudden, you’re ordering your cap and gown.

So graduates, get ready, that’s about to happen again. I expect that the next year of your life — and really, I think this applies whether you are enrolling in an MD/Ph.D. program, about to join a start-up company, accepting a commission in one of the uniformed services, maybe you’ve just been drafted by an NFL team, or maybe you’re planning a cross-country trip while you make your plans — it will all pass very quickly, just like a precious spring day on the Horseshoe after a grueling winter. 

I want you to enjoy every minute of your next phase of life because, as John Lennon said in the song "Beautiful Boy," “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”  So don’t let life slip away; enjoy every minute, and create great, new memories.

And keep our common Gamecock memories near to you. That’s what makes us a family, you know, our common memories. The way we record memories has changed over the years — Twitter, Instagram, Facebook — but the ways in which we make memories has not.

While you were a student, here in Columbia or across the system, we made some great family memories over the past four years. You might remember visits by Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor; or you might have come to hear Ambassadors Andrew Young and John Huntsman Jr.

You might have been around the Thomas Cooper Library when the 47th vice president of the United States, Joe Biden, helped us dedicate the Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections wing. Thank you, Mr. Vice President for being with us on that day in 2010.

Now, for the family members with us who are wondering, “Why didn’t I hear about any of these events?” Let me share with you, that your special someone, dressed in cap and gown today, must have been busy on those days. They really wanted to come, but just couldn’t make it. In fact, they probably had class.

But they were present, and graduates tell me right or wrong, on Oct. 9, 2010, Game Day on the Horseshoe when we went on to beat No. 1 Alabama the first time and then again on Game Day two years later when we beat the Georgia Bulldogs (again) . (Were some of you there?)

And they were there after our World Series National Champion Gamecock Baseball team returned from Omaha to a rousing reception and ticker-tape parade. (Were any of you there for that?)

And they were there when the Women’s Basketball team won their first-ever SEC Championship. 

And they were there for the Darius Rucker concert in this very arena this past February.

And they were on the Horseshoe for the great snow ball fights during the 3-inch Southern blizzard a few months ago.

You see, parents and friends, they didn’t miss ALL the important stuff. They did get their money’s worth — I mean your money’s worth!

Graduates, please know that Patricia and I have loved living among you. We will miss you. Take your memories and mold them into principles that you can live by: the principles of community service, of compassion, of tolerance, of civility — in short, the principles of the Carolinian Creed.

And, in moving forward, keep in mind what Duke Ellington said when asked what his favorite song was. He said that it was always the next song, always the one he had yet to compose. 

That is my wish for you: that you will cherish your time at Carolina, but that you’ll be even more excited about tomorrow, about your next song. I can’t wait to hear what it will be.

Ladies and gentlemen, would you please join me, for the first time, in congratulating these exceptional graduates in the springtime of their lives?

Now I would like to introduce to you individuals who recently received some of the University’s highest faculty awards.

As I call out your name, would you please stand and remain standing? 

Ladies and gentlemen, please withhold your applause until all have been introduced.

The recipient of the Educational Foundation Award for Research in Health Sciences is Kim Creek, Department of Drug Discovery and Biomedical Sciences, South Carolina College of Pharmacy.

The recipient of the Clinical Practice Teaching Award is Katherine Chappell, College of Nursing.

The recipient of the Carolina Trustee Professorship Award is Manoj K. Malhotra, Department of Management Science, Darla Moore School of Business.

And, congratulations to Joe Jones, Department of Environmental Health Services, Arnold School of Public Health, who received the John Gardner Inspirational Faculty Member Award.

Let’s now recognize all of these awardees.

I am also pleased to announce two student awards.

The university’s highest student awards for leadership and service are the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Awards.  

The female recipient of this award is Cassandra Grace Staton, who today receives her bachelor of science degree in business administration from the Darla Moore School of Business, summa cum laude and with honors from the South Carolina Honors College. 

The male recipient of this award is Chase Harold Mizzell, who today receives his bachelor of science degree in business administration from the Darla Moore School of Business, cum laude, and with honors from South Carolina Honors College. 

Now, let’s congratulate these most deserving student awardees.

Many great individuals have helped you arrive here by guiding or supporting you and our university. 

First, ladies and gentlemen, the university's board of trustees, led by our chairman, the Honorable Gene Warr.  

Would the trustees rise and receive our recognition for their devoted service to the university?

And because board service requires tremendous family support, I now want to recognize the spouses and families of the members of the board who are here with us, as well as our first lady, Patricia Moore-Pastides.

Would these special guests please rise and receive our recognition? 

Without the remarkable efforts of our highly dedicated faculty, and their commitment to the balance among teaching, research and service, these graduates would not be here today. 

Will all of you please join me in recognizing the great work of my faculty colleagues represented here as I ask them to stand and be recognized?

Finally, we welcome our very special guests, whose support and guidance have been so important  the families and friends of today’s graduates.

Graduates, will you recognize all of your family and friends who are here to support you today, including those who are Carolina alumni? Let’s show them our gratitude and our affection.