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PATRICIA STRANAHAN

Thank you and good morning. Mark asked me to say a few words this morning on behalf of the faculty.

I thought I might do something a little different, because I want to share a few thoughts I've had with you. I've been thinking a lot about my father during the wonderful set of events over the last week. I think of him particularly when the weather is nice and how we used to go outside. My father has died but I think of how much he would have enjoyed this ceremony because he was a man who loved educational institutions. He was very devoted to the College of Wooster from which he graduated and he also had a real sense of community.

I thought what I'd do this morning for just a few minutes is to tell you about my father. My father was a very wonderful man but he had some peculiarities. One of his most pronounced peculiarities was that he made up slogans that his three daughters lived by.

For example he created a slogan when I was a sophomore in college called "participate." He'd call you up, anytime day or night and never identify himself because, after all he was Dad, to ask you if you were "participating." Now, I went to college in the late 60s. As you know that was an interesting time to be in college. So, when he would call and ask me if I was "participating," I always assured him I was, but I'd never exactly define what I was participating in.

Another of my father's favorite slogans was "pursue academic excellence." That was a no-brainer for me because I really loved school and so I always pursued academic excellence. The third slogan was do the best you can--for that's all anyone can ask of you.

When I was your age and living by these slogans my thought was the early 70s equivalent of "Dad, get a life!" But, with time and maturity I realized that as with many things my father taught me, what appeared to be very simple on the surface would really convey a more compound, complex meaning.

What my father really meant was this: Pursue excellence in your chosen field but don't just do it within a narrow scope. Participate in the world around you. Give something back for all the good you have been given. And if you do that you've done the very best you can and you can wake up in the morning and feel good about yourself. You can take pleasure in your accomplishments because you've done the best you can and that's all anyone can ask of you.

My father lived with his slogans his whole life. He was a very good criminal attorney, district attorney, and then and then a famous jurist who pursued excellence in the field of law. He loved the law and he believed very strongly in public service. He believed that you had to give back to your community and your world all the good that had been given to you. He practiced this in his town, in the state, in the legal profession, and with his own family. And in the end my father did the best he could--and that was all anyone could really ask of him.

And so today in this great time of happiness as you start out in the world with all this before you, I hope that once in a while you'll think about my dad and his slogans, because they are really very good slogans.

On behalf of the faculty of Hobart and William Smith Colleges, I wish you all the very best. You've gotten a wonderful education. I hope you go out into the world and use that education to make the world a better place. Thank you.

 

INFORMATION

Remarks at Commencement II

May 13, 2002