Commencement Speeches 2014

Champlain College Commencement

Watch the full Commencement video on Youtube HERE.

The Board of Trustees Welcome and Invocation

Board of Trustee Chair Mary Powell, President of Green Mountain Power

On behalf of the Champlain College Board of Trustees, it is my honor and pleasure to welcome each of you to the 136th Commencement of Champlain College.

Champlain College is a place of contrasts. While our founding in 1878 places us among the more venerable institutions of higher learning in America, we don't carry the burden of bureaucracy that can impede institutions that have been in existence for well over a century.

Champlain has nurtured its ability to adapt quickly to market forces, and to institute new programs that will provide our students with the most relevant education. While we are rightly proud of this, we remain mindful that pride in our accomplishments is best tempered by nurturing the agility, creativity, discipline and willingness to change that has enabled us to adapt with such success in our first 136 years.

That spirit of innovation and optimism links the College both to its origins and to its future. It will guide us as we look to new challenges that will best position our graduates to take advantage of emerging opportunities in the marketplace.

Today, we will present honorary degrees to two outstanding individuals whose contributions through public service and writing make them particularly deserving of recognition.  We take great pride in watching you, the members of the Class of 2014, become graduates. We extend to each of you our heartfelt congratulations and best wishes for a healthy and prosperous future.

Let us take a moment to give thanks for the blessings of this day as we gather here for Champlain College's 136th commencement to celebrate and acknowledge our students' accomplishments. We give thanks to all those who have supported the members of the graduating class of 2014 and sacrificed for them on their journey here.   Let us all heed the experience of those who came before us, that we may be the wiser from what they have learned.   May we offer a helping hand, a kind word of advice and a moment of peace to those who follow us.

 We ask for the patience and guidance to step humbly and respectfully in the world.

 In the years ahead, we ask that our actions be tempered with grace, wisdom and forethought as we strive to make our world a better place.   Amen.

Alumni Welcome:

Marguerite Dibble ' 12 - owner and founder of Birnam Wood Games: 

When I graduated high school I picked a Beethoven quote for my yearbook. The quote was: "I will seize fate by the throat." And I always like it. I still do. But I've changed since then, and now when I hear that quote, I end up thinking about what kind of person would come up with a quote like that, and what the quality of their life would be. It's not the prettiest picture.

I graduated two years ago, I was always very secure with where I wanted to go, so I didn't think a lot would change in my life when I was sitting where you are, but a lot has. Starting a business can be stressful, and has a lot of ups and downs. Some days would be fantastic, ecstatic, and other days I would go into the bathroom and think "huh, maybe I could just live in here... there's wifi and a shower and there's really not too much to worry about. I could bring in some blanket and take naps and never worry about the world again. And that would be okay."

I haven't had one of those moments for at least a year now, which probably means things are looking up.

The biggest conflict that I've found myself dealing with after school is this idea a friend of mine called the Beyonce v. Dog conflict. You'll see Beyonce, and it's this shining light of accomplishment and ambition and motivation, and you think that's what you think you're working towards. "Ah yes, that's it! That's the goal! I'll work hard and strive and get there!". And then I'd go home, and see my dog passed out in front of the stove, and think "nah, that's right. That's the goal, just that. That's where we should be trying to get to."

Balancing those two very different dichotomous images of life has been the biggest challenge in these past two years, and I think the truth is that there's great aspects to both, and everyone has to find their own level of comfort with each.

I always thought I would be completely prepared for life, and exiting school came as a surprising jolt. It's so easy, or at least it always was for me, to look ahead, at a bright shining image of the future.

It's a big change. Actually entering life. There's suddenly an entire spanning horizon of options and possibilities. It's vast, and daunting. But what it really all comes down to, or at least has for me is learning to accept that life is just one day at a time.

Since we were five years old we've been educated to look to the future, work for that next step, only to reach it and be present with yet another step, and another, a future a year down the road, or five, with a seemingly endless staircase of time ahead of us and only a vague glowing reward at the end.

My advice is take the time to really think about what that reward is. Is it happiness? Contentment? Satisfaction? Maybe it's just the ability to get out of bed, look around at your life and feel pretty great about where you are. And that's something that shouldn't be pushed off to a clouded pinnacle always a step away. Think about ways to ensure that it's not placed up on some mountaintop, but it can be reached, at least in some way, each day.

Take the time to understand yourself enough to put complete trust in yourself. Understand your goals and your needs, and let that knowledge sink into your bones as a constant foundation.

Consider your happiness, and consider if honestly. Think about what will create a daily sense of contentment and a long term satisfaction with your life. Fleeting happiness is about as useful as eternally postponed happiness.

Take each moment and experience it fully. Without the distractions of past regrets or the pressure future aims.

Let life be exactly what it is: one day at a time, and trust that the foundation you've laid will get you somewhere great, even if you're not sure exactly where.

We're trained to see things linearly, to imagine our lives as a story, with a climax, and a finale. But that's not how we live. The present is the only thing we ever experience. The future is always the future. The past is always the past. There is only one now, and it's infinite, endless. Make sure that Now counts. Live presently. Live fully. And trust yourself to get wherever you need to go.

If I had to pick a quote to put in a yearbook today, I'd choose something else. Probably something from E.M. Forester. And I quite like this one: "There's only one perfect view, and that's of the sky over our heads."

Thank you. And all the best.

Chelsea speaking

Senior Address: Chelsea Hutchings '14, president of the Student Government Association: 

Well well well... here we are, The Class of 2014, surely a force to be reckoned with.

 Today is an exciting day, one that marks history here at Champlain, a day that marks history in our lives and the lives of the essential people who are arguably the reasons we find ourselves here today.

 It is a great honor to be here with all of you in celebration of this exciting transition, and on behalf of the class of 2014 I would like to send an everlasting "thank you" to all of the faculty, staff, administration, Board of Trustees & Burlington Community members, and a special thank you to every mother, father, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, grandparent, step parent, cousin, guardian and friend under this tent today. We.. did this with you.   Personally, I would like to thank my parents, for supporting me even in the moments that I probably made it difficult to want to.

To Katie Hawley - thank you for taking me under your wing from the second I was put into office - you're truly awesome.   And to Dana Porowski - keep your dreams big.  You can do it.   And a big thank you Michelle Miller & Chuck Bashaw (aka mom and dad) for being the best advisors and mentors the SGA could have ever asked for,   To my SGA family - regardless of how much the public knows, you are certainly some of the most selfLESS and motivated individuals I've had the pleasure of working with. I am honored to have collaborated with such a unique, talented, daring group of people. You have truly changed the way I think, the way I interact and the way I lead; for this I am eternally grateful. Be proud for all that you have accomplished this year.   And to my Champlain Brothers: Brandyn and Danny, I couldn't have made it through this year without you. I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors, and I am looking forward our 20 year plan.

 And of course, thank you to all of my fellow classmates.  You've made the last four years of my life a ride to remember.   In the spirit of thanks, there is one person here with us today that deserves a thank you from each and every person sitting under this tent and beyond;   President Finney. You are a lot of things to a lot of people here in the Champlain Community. Be it "the man in charge", the architect, the innovator, or the visionary, you've brought this College and this group of people to the next level.   I have silently watched you over the past few years, admiring the leadership skills that you embody and having had the chance to work closely with you this year (not so silently anymore), I have noticed something that you do and have done extremely well here at Champlain: and that is to leave things better than you found them.

 You have gone above and beyond expectations of others, you have set high standards, and you have continued to maintain and enhance the core values of what really makes Champlain, Champlain.   For this, on behalf of the class of 2014 we would like to say thank you for all that you have done to make our degrees valuable through a radically pragmatic education, and by being the best professionally focused college in the United States. Your mark has been forever made at Champlain and beyond.

While thanks are certainly due on this day, a celebration is also in order. We are here to close on what has been quite the journey - whether it took 4 or 6 years, we did it; we are done. (as soon as President Finney gives us our diploma, that is.)

 What does it mean for you? for me? for all of us? Well for starters, it means you've earned a degree, and despite the fact that it's a piece of paper it means more than that. You have created a new identity, you are about to be a Champlain College Graduate. You have earned the right to tie yourself to Champlain for life, that is quite special. Why? Well because we are a group of individuals unlike the rest; set apart from the others because of the way in which we think critically, the way we build and engage in community, the way that we recognize others for their accomplishments and accept one another for our differences.

 In our time here, we've all learned and sharpened certain skills and I ask that we keep using these skills and run with them.   Wear Champlain's name and the title of Champlain College Graduate, that you have earned with the same pride, dignity and honor that you had here.   Use your skills out in the world to do what we've all been doing here, and doing better than the rest; exactly what President Finney has been an example of... let's leave whatever we touch, wherever we land, better than we found it.

 You might be asking yourself, "how?" "How am I supposed to leave things better than I found them" or telling yourself that you don't have capacity to make change in the unknown, but low and behold you do. Champlain has prepared us well.  Each and everyone of us has found our strengths here at Champlain over the past four years. Use them to your advantage as you embark on the next phases of your lives.

 New York Times Best Selling author Tom Rath once said, "You cannot be whatever you want, but you can be a whole lot more of who you already are." I like that quote because I think it's something that our world tends to overlook. We are consistently told to get better at things that might not make sense to us, or that we might not be good at. Channel your energy into your strengths; don't spend your life focusing on such weaknesses. I believe this will set you apart from all others.

Together we are a class of writers, designers, communicators, teachers, developers, technicians, movers, shakers and critical thinkers. We all started on our own paths and will continue on our own paths as we enter the next chapter. I am fortunate enough to have my next 8-10 years planned out in writing, literally, in a contract. I plan to take my strengths that I have discovered, developed and honed here at Champlain to serve with Honor, Commitment and Courage; to lead in the strongest military in the world, in the United States Navy. I encourage you to look at all of your accomplishments. What are your strengths and what are you going to do with them? Be honest with yourselves. Honesty isn't the best policy, it's the only policy. Get focused and inspired on what you can do and translate it into tangible progress, success and change.   The world is waiting for us and when I say "us" I mean it as the Champlain College Graduating Class of 2014.

You see, we're different. We have what it takes. We're arguably one of the best, and in my opinion the best class to have graduated from Champlain College thus far, So Class of 2014... let's go out there and show em' what we're made of.  

Founded in 1878, Champlain College is a small, not-for-profit, private college in Burlington, Vermont, with additional campuses in Montreal, Canada, and Dublin, Ireland. Champlain offers a traditional undergraduate experience from its beautiful campus overlooking Lake Champlain and over 90 residential undergraduate and online undergraduate and graduate degree programs and certificates. Champlain's distinctive career-driven approach to higher education embodies the notion that true learning occurs when information and experience come together to create knowledge. Champlain College is included in the Princeton Review's The Best 384 Colleges: 2019 Edition. For the fourth year in a row, Champlain was named a "Most Innovative School" in the North by U.S. News & World Report's 2019 "America's Best Colleges,” and a “Best Value School” and is ranked in the top 100 “Regional Universities of the North” and in the top 25 for “Best Undergraduate Teaching.” Champlain is also featured in the Fiske Guide to Colleges for 2019 as one of the "best and most interesting schools" in the United States, Canada and Great Britain and is a 2019 College of Distinction. For more information, visit