2009 YC Commencement
Dr. Dan Endorf
As the principal of York high School I welcome all of you, whether you are from the other side of town or the other side of the world , to the jewel of our school, our high school theater.
Speaking of high schools, I would like to take our honored graduates back to their high school experience for a second. Particularly, their high school graduation. Now, for most of you I’m guessing this was just 4 or 5 short years ago that you were participating in your high school graduation ceremony; sitting in a hot, sweaty gymnasium in some little town in Nebraska, or in the case of this far-reaching college it might have been in a town in Arkansas, or California, or Oregon or maybe Minnesota.
Now, from wherever home is, I’d like you to fastforward to the present. Here you sit wearing an elegant caps and gown with a cool-looking tassel on the side—and this is all happening right here, right here in the middle of the middle of the middle of the middle of America. How in the world did you end up in this high school theater smack-dab in the center of NE? Why is it that you are soon to be an alum of York College instead of a host of other great colleges in our country?
Maybe it’s the same reason York College’s new Chancellor, Dr. Wayne Baker, found his way to the middle of the middle of the middle of America. You see, I first met Dr. Baker about four years ago. Let me tell you, with his mannerisms and his noticeable southern drawl, I could tell right away—this guy, he sure aint a local… I’ve had some great conversations with Dr. Baker through the last couple of years and on one occasion I asked him how he found his way to York College. After a thoughtful pause, Dr. Baker replied, “Because, Because it felt like the right place to be.”
Yes, The right place to be. I hope you all feel that way at this moment, I hope that deep in your veins you can feel how truly special this moment is. Everyone is dressed to the nines, with so many of these festive gowns adorned by the people of honor. And of course graduates, the true emotion of the moment for you stems from the specific loved ones in the audience here to watch you reach the pinnacle of York College today.
Graduates, I hope you all feel that this graduation is different than any other college graduation you have ever attended, at YC or anywhere else, for one simple reason—b/c it’s yours; it is your graduation. It is your moment in the sun. Honored students, Please Sit up a little straighter, arch those shoulders, and for goodness sakes smile. Yes ladies and gentlemen, as Dr. Baker’s said, this is the right place to be…this is the right place to be for this special moment in our lives, mine included.
To the YC Family, I Thank you very much for the honor of sharing a few words with you today. Before I pour advice upon this fine looking group of YC graduates to be, please allow me tell them what they are not obligated to do as alumni. This might not be popular with my friends on stage but graduates, here are a few misnomers about being a York College alum.
First of all, graduates, there exists no mandate that you pay a return visit to York College next year or even in the next five years, although as I’m sure you know, you’ll always be welcomed back here at YC.
And Graduates, it’s not your job to find a job in your chosen field of study; however, your friends and family here today, and all these professors in our midst, they believe it might be worth your while to give it a shot.
Graduates no doubt you are destined for tremendous financial success. After you make that first cool million dollars or two, I want you to understand that there exists no YC requirement that you must donate all of that money back to the college, or to York High School for that matter, although as you know, in this day and age colleges from coast to coast are appreciative of any donation they receive.
And finally graduates, don’t feel obliged to recruit you little brother or your little sister to York College, although I know that many of you already have and will continue to do so.
So, if none of these pretty good ideas are requirements of York College alumni, then what are the expectations for someone holding a degree from this institution?
Please folks, keep in mind, These are the opinions of this guy, just another human being living and working a few blocks down the street for the past couple of years. It is my belief that the responsibility of a YC graduate, as you will all be in a few minutes, is to take this York College culture that you see before today, this YC mission, the YC way of life, and to weave this experience into your adult years. And I am of the opinion that this responsibility is threefold.
First, I believe a YC grad should have a mission of GOODWILL in their lives. In other words, do your very best to follow that tried and true adage called The Golden Rule. Treat others the way you want to be treated. Do the right thing. It’s as Simple as that. One of my favorite books is authored by a gentleman, and a scholar, named Hal Urban. This special book is entitled, Life’s Greatest Lessons. In this self-help book, the author devotes entire chapters to such topics as honesty, motivation, discipline, courtesy, success and failure. Yunno, the traits that our departed friend, Mr. Kimball Matkins, quietly mastered in his own way. These are basic, simple tenets of life. There is nothing in Hal Urbans’s book that is startling or cutting edge at all, folks. Yet this author has sold a quarter of a million copies of this book with no end in sight. 250,000 books! Why all of the sales, I ask? I believe it’s Because living a life of good will towards others and not for yourself isn’t an easy proposition. Never has been, never will be. But everyone in this room should expect educated people like you sitting right over there to strive to live your life with Goodwill toward others.
Another reasonable expectation of a York College alum is a mission of CITIZENSHIP. Graduates, you are educated, you’re smart, you’ve risen above the crowd. I believe that society expects you to do more than it expects of the average adult. This is called Servant Leadership, the giving of yourself through a leadership capacity. Servant leaders approach their careers with passion, with zeal. Servant leaders work until the job is done rather than what the clock on the wall says.
As educated citizens, servant leaders need to do more than just be another parent or another spouse—No. Servant leaders strive to be model parents, to be a good spouse, a caring neighbor. And they get involved in community. Servant leaders join the local school board, run for city council, become leaders at church. They Volunteer. Maybe a volunteer firefighter, a volunteer at the library, at the elementary school or Sunday school. In one way or another, they take their skill, education, talent and make the lives of others better. People like Dr. John Baker, a good man sacrificing personal time in the summer to provide area children a chance to perform the arts. Graduates, be like Dr. Baker. Find where your ability, and your passion, lies and then lead with the gusto, with the energy we all know is inside of you. And do the work, not because of glory or riches or fame--but rather, because it is the right work to do!
The third mission is a mission many of you have had a great handle on for many years. It’s part of the reason you selected YC in the first place. It’s your mission of faith. Faith. Graduates, after today many of you won’t have YC right out your doorstep anymore, you may not have East Hill church just down the street, and you certainly won’t have an 11:00 chapel—but even though you won’t have the opportunities presented by YC or East Hill Church or an 11:00 chapel, remember, you’ll still have 11:00. You see, your time to share your faith together, your 11:00 chapel, will be different when you live in Minneapolis or Memphis or Milwaukee. But that distance, that adult life you are beginning, it means your life is changing, but it doesn’t mean you can’t send an 11:00 text message, an 11:00 e-mail, or have a quiet moment of reflection at 11:00-- Your 11:00 may not be chapel anymore, It May not be like it has been… but it still can be!
Graduates as you take the expectations of a York College Graduate-- of being a good person, a good citizen and a good shepard, As you exit YC and the Middle of the middle of the middle of the middle of America and you collectively stretch your talents to the End of the End of the End of the End of the Earth, I ask you individually…What is your personal mission? I ask you, what is going to guide your life? Your decisions? Your Values? My personal hope is that you take the wonderful talents and skills that your parents forged, that your community helped to mold, and that YC refined—that you take these abilities and your strong, indelible beliefs and make our world a better place to be. And As you go about uncovering your personal mission I suggest you take Chancellor Baker’s advice and rely on that same “gut feeling” he had when deciding York College was the right place to be.
But Before we get too caught up in tomorrow—let’s celebrate today! Graduates, give out Hugs and kisses and high fives, even do those crazy chest bump things that the Panther soccer team does when scoring a goal or the Panther baseball team does after another win –I mean celebrate!—Take a victory lap around town--you’ve earned it—you’ve won –mission accomplished—you are a college graduate.
With the utmost sincerity graduates, as you explore opportunities in big cities like Milwaukee or Memphis or Miami or in little towns like Minden or McCook or Milford—keep in mind that as you accept these jobs you are essentially taking the first steps toward bringing closure to this chapter of your life… After today, life will spread this graduating class out like the tattered elastic in an old sock. No doubt, today is the last time you will all ever be together again. And the oftentimes unspoken truth is that most of you will probably not return to York or to YC for a very, very, very long time—that is, until you bring your own children here to college one day!