Greetings from the faculty, 2004

Delivered by Anthony Benoit at Three Rivers Commencement, May 23rd, 2004

Graduation always seems a little like a wedding and not just because both happen in late spring. We dress up in funny costumes and march around. Thereís a traditional song, though [Pomp & Circumstance] instead of [Wedding March]. We plan the ceremony months in advance. Relatives come from near and far. An official person uses the phrase "by the authority vested in me." And there are hugs and kisses, maybe even a few tears in the audience.

Like getting married, becoming a college graduate happens in a moment. You arrive at a special place as one sort of person, then someone in a robe pronounces special words over you and you leave as another. Both ceremonies should be followed by celebration and maybe a short trip away from responsibilities. But though marriage and graduation happen in an instant, they require years of effort and sacrifice; although graduation probably has more work before the honeymoon and marriage more work after.

Still your family, friends, co-workers and society at large you view you differently after today. And they should, for you will be transformed.

You will have privileges after today that you didnít before and, of course, responsibilities as well. On average, like married people, college graduates are better off. They earn a better living, have nicer homes, live longer and healthier lives and spend less time in jail. (Youíve already done your time.)

Like a marriage, graduation depends primarily on the ones who march down the aisle, but would be impossible without the support of friends, family and community. Many of those people are here today to witness and to honor. But this is their day, our day, as well. We are here to give you away, to the world. We are proud of our "babies" all grown up.

There are of course differences. You donít have to say "I do" today. You already said it countless times over the last few semesters by changing your lifestyle to fulfill a commitment: by doing your homework instead of watching TV, by shifting your work schedule to hours less convenient for the rest of your life but more convenient for your schooling, by reading when youíd rather eat dinner and go to bed, by stretching your thinking into shapes you didnít know it had.

Unlike after marriage, itís OK after graduation if you carry on like before, provided you carry on with reading, thinking, discussing, writing, and experimenting.

Perhaps the greatest difference between graduation and marriage is that you actually want to have more than one graduation. You might say that one leads to another now that you have the habit of education.

So, I want you to leave here today proud, satisfied, ready to party, but maybe a little nervous about what lies ahead. And may the bouquet of learning that you carry today continue to grow and blossom as you go and toss it to the world.

Anthony Benoit is a professor of Environmental Engineering Technology at Three Rivers Community College in Norwich, CT.