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President's Blog: From the Heart

Selfless Sacrifice

By Eric F. Spina

("Life has already tested you in ways that no other class has been tested across the 171 years that UD has existed — and it didn't come in the way of an essay scrawled in a blue book or a complex problem set. It came in the way of selfless sacrifice, and you aced that final exam," University of Dayton President Eric F. Spina told graduates at four undergraduate ceremonies May 8-9. See below for his remarks to the Class of 2021.)

Congratulations to the Class of 2021. You made it! We made it together!

Speaking as your president — representing all of the faculty, staff, and Marianists at the University of Dayton — let me say this very simply and directly: We are so very, very proud of you! Incredibly proud of you! As colleges and universities across the country made decisions last summer to go completely remote or to bring back only half or even only a quarter of their students, we understood that this could not, would not, work at UD, where we truly value having *everyone* in community together. So we asked you to make sacrifices, to follow protocols, and to demonstrate your care and concern for others. And you did it. You did it! You successfully navigated a year unlike any other by leaning into your Flyer spirit, by giving each other grace, by adapting and growing in ways you had never imagined. And now we are together to celebrate this year of success *and* your exceptional achievements across your career at the University of Dayton.

Life has already tested you in ways that no other class has been tested across the 171 years that UD has existed — and it didn’t come in the way of an essay scrawled in a blue book or a complex problem set. It came in the way of selfless sacrifice, and you aced that final exam. Please, give yourselves a rousing round of applause because YOU DID IT!

I offer a special welcome to all of our families on this joyous day. I can feel your happiness, your pride, and yes, even a little bit of relief. This day is finally here — and we’re so grateful and blessed to be here today in person. This is a day you’ll always remember and cherish.

And to all the mothers with us today — and especially the mothers of the graduates — Happy Mother’s Day! What wonderful, special gifts your son or daughter is giving you today: a University of Dayton diploma and a memory of a lifetime!

Graduates, will you please rise, face your mother and your other family members, and give them a rousing round of applause for their support and love that made this day possible!

Some of you are first-generation college graduates — the first in the history of your family lineage to earn a college degree. Others are the first graduates of the Flyer Promise Scholars program, which eliminates the financial barriers for high-achieving, underserved students.

You personify the American dream, and you will continue to open doors of opportunity — not just for yourselves, but for future generations of your family. We’re so proud of you AND so proud of the family members who made your dream — and theirs — come true.

Let’s have a special round of applause for first-generation graduates and Flyer Promise Scholars and their families!

As you saw in the videos that ran before the ceremony, members of the faculty and staff are with you today in spirit. I thank them for creating an environment that has allowed you to stretch yourselves academically, to dream big, to dare to be great. These mentors have prepared you to use your education and faith to make a difference — a real difference — in a world hungry for your ability to build community across diversity and to think in innovative ways about creating a just future for all. Those are hallmarks of your Catholic, Marianist education.

As I prepared my remarks for today, I recalled the words of author Yasmin Mogahed, who wrote, “Happiness, sadness, loss, and gain all pass away.  What they do to us is what remains.” 

What they do for us is what remains.

Your presence here today speaks to your tenacity — and your heart. And, as you’ve discovered during this most unusual of senior years, for all that’s been lost, much has been gained.

Your class has learned the power of sacrifice because you’ve made necessary ones to keep you, your families, and our campus safe.

Your class understands more fully the meaning of community, even in our socially distanced world. On a campus where “community” is our calling card, you have embraced the commitment to care for one another.

Your class become more adept at navigating the unknown on this journey of faith we shared together. The ability to work with ambiguity means you’ll be able to face uncertainties, adapt to change, and be flexible as life’s mysteries unfold in both magical and confounding ways. Flexibility is a prized trait in whatever profession you pursue. You have met adversity — one of life’s greatest teachers — and it has made you stronger.

As I close, I challenge you, in the spirit of the Marianists, to use your gifts and talents to serve others. Lead with love. Take the University of Dayton’s welcoming spirit humbly into the world and open your hearts and minds to others, especially those who may be different from you or who have less than you.

I have full confidence that you will be successful in all the ways that matter. I know our country and our society will benefit from your expertise and efforts, your compassion and community-building skills, your faith and fortitude.

The University of Dayton will always be an important part of you, and you will always be part of this special campus community. This will always be your home.

Members of the class of 2021, congratulations on your accomplishments! The world is waiting for you — and all your immeasurable gifts. May God’s grace be with you as you realize your dreams and pursue lives of great purpose — in service to humanity.

Go Flyers!

(Photo credit: Meredith Robinson)

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