President Finney's Commencement Address

President David Finney

Watch President Finney give his speech during the full Commencement video HERE.

Remarks by President David Finney at the 2014 Commencement.

Welcome, welcome....members all of the Champlain College Community.

We gather today to honor the 523 members (of 595 of the Champlain College class of 2014 here with us today. Congratulations!
Now, before the mood becomes too celebratory, I want to pause for a bit to remember some people who are not here. Like many here who attended college in the 1960's and 1970's, you graduates have watched members of your generation fight an unpopular war. Popular or not, the sacrifices that they have made - and continue to make - reflect their courage and commitment to this great country. In my nine years as President, this is the third commencement in which we have not been at war in Iraq. We rejoice in that. But our service men and women remain in Afghanistan. As of this past week 2,218 of those serving in Afghanistan have made the ultimate sacrifice. All of our lives are diminished as a result.

Could you please stand as we pause for a moment of silence to honor those who have served and, in particular, those who have fallen.
....thank you. Please be seated.

It is especially gratifying to see so many of our distinguished faculty here. As you graduates know full well, Champlain's faculty are passionate about teaching and learning. They all take delight in recounting stories of when this or that student grasped a particularly difficult concept. They love to make a difference in the lives of their students. It is a privilege for me to call these committed professionals my colleagues.

I've been around colleges for a long time. If there is one thing I have learned it is this: not one of today's graduates got here alone. All of them have received the support and encouragement of someone close to them. So I would especially like to salute the families, partners and special friends who supported these graduating students. (please stand) Congratulations to you and thank you for the commitment you have made to your student's success!
This is a day that continues a long commencement tradition here at Champlain.

Even as we continue to celebrate the achievements of our graduates in classic Champlain form, this year we continue a commencement tradition we began only last year. The class of 2014 is the second class in Champlain's history to attend all four years with the statue of Samuel de Champlain on campus. We erected it in the summer of 2009 just a year before you arrived. To pay homage to our namesake, your student government is continuing the practice of giving each graduate a replica of old Sam's spyglass. We hope it will be a lifelong memento of your time at Champlain. I encourage you to keep it in your various offices as your career unfolds. As the years go by and each graduate receives this memento, the odds increase that you will one day walk into a colleague's office and spy the spyglass. A new beaver bond will have begun!

When you arrived at Champlain on that beautiful sunny day, August 27, 2010, I advised you to do three things: play hard, work hard and serve. I know you have done all of that - and more. The faculty, staff and I are proud of you. You have learned a lot, and in the process, have grown and developed. You leave Champlain a different person than the insecure high school graduate or transfer student that arrived here.

Work hard, serve and play hard was the advice. I offered up that advice because I knew that various pundits and journalists would be writing about you at this time to talk about how ill prepared you are for the world. My feeling then - and now - is that if you followed my advice, you would, indeed, be ready for the world. How well did you do?

Well..... In terms of work:-
• YOU interned with employers such as First Night Burlington, Vermont Teddy Bear Factory Select Design, VPR, ECHO, Flynn Center for the Performing Arts, Ben & Jerry's,
• YOU traveled to Nepal and received the EHS travel voucher to continue research.
• YOU traveled to Cuba with a Core class
• You interned with Mad River Valley Planning District; with the Sustainability Director of Burlington; and with Congressman Joe Kennedy.
• You attended the National Outdoor Leadership School in Australia
• You conceived of, opened and continue to run the College's first on-site ByoBiz business - the Lodge
• You helped design, edit, and write for the Champlain View Alumni Magazine
• You traveled to China and worked for the summer at an animation studio
• You worked in public relations and helped make the Segway Touring Company in Burlington one of the top tourist attractions in the city.
• You finished your last four courses in CPS so you could graduate in the same semester as your wife as she finishes up next week at UVM.
• You were the first Champlain College representative to the Clinton Global Initiative
• You helped brainstorm and support the Maker movement at Champlain, resulting in the opening of our own Maker Lab.
• You built and launched an interactive digital experience at the ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center.
• You refined and launched the WealthBuilders game with the Ford Foundation to teach people about creating sustainable livelihoods in rural communities.
• You helped maintain the BREAKAWAY game and prepare it for use in a youth camp in El Salvador.
• You worked with a New York Times best-selling author to create a game concept for his crime-solving character series.
• You finished two test-outs to graduate this semester even though you are working full time.
• You brainstormed solutions for the Xerox Company to create mobile health applications.
• You independently conceived, planned, and held the first Green Mountain Games Festival featuring keynote speakers from the best independent game studios across Europe and the US.
• You wrote a book on the latest tools in game development which is now available for pre-order on Amazon.com
• You built countless apps that are currently for sale for the iPhone and Android stores.
• You organized as an LLC and ran a successful crowd-sourcing campaign to fund it for the next two years.
• You provided Continued Professional Education credits to CPAs in Vermont as a part of a final capstone project
• You were Orientation Leaders, Resident Assistants, Peer Mentors, Peer Advisors, ECO reps and Admission Ambassadors.
• You spent a summer working and living in Shanghai as part of the Freeman Grant Program.
• You reinterpreted Othello to be a story about revenge in the contemporary workplace
• You contributed to the scholarship of Writing Center Studies by attending an international conference
• You participated and performed in the theatrical productions of Hamlet, Dog Sees God, and Sweeney Todd
• You managed the publication of the inaugural issues of Audeamus: A Collection of Student Works
• You participated in a 48 hour play-writing competition
• You decided to move to Montreal to pursue your graphic design work
And...YOU already have jobs at companies such as:
• Keurig Green Mountain, Inc, AIG, Office of the state treasurer, Fletcher Allen Health Care, Rocky Mountain Youth Corps, Walt Disney World Company, Montessori School of Exeter, McSoley and McCoy, Dealer.com, HP, Avonda Air Systems, MassMutual Financial Group, Cisco Systems, Inc, Ben & Jerry's, Rovers North,
Meditech, Burton Snowboards, Akuity Technologies, Marathon Health, Hippo Animation, Rally Software, Vermont Department of Health, New Breed Marketing, Burlington City Arts, Nomad Industries, Sony Computer Entertainment America, Dreamkind, W.B. Mason, FUSE Marketing, Dell SecureWorks, Blue Cross Blue Shield, JDK Design, Department of Homeland Security, My Web Grocer, Boeing, and Ernst & Young.
Am I worried about you finding success at work? No, I am not. You already have.

How about service? How did you serve during your time here?
• You tutored English Language Learners in Burlington and Winooski schools and youth centers
• You mentored children and youth at: King Street Youth Center, The O'Brien Center in Winooski, the Boys and Girls Club, The Ronald McDonald House
• You supported Literacy through Word Play with Edmunds Middle school students
• You supported young learners at Lunch Buddies at the Integrated Arts Academy and the Sustainability Institute
• You taught Irish children in a variety of school settings in Dublin
• You co-developed a study with the Community Development Project in Dublin, documenting why (Irish Travelers') gypsy children leave school early
• You mentored refugee children from around the world in Burlington and Winooski
• You created a website called 'Feed the Boy' about how to help people going through chemo keep their appetite
• You raised money for Hope Works and Women Helping Battered Women
• You founded and participated in the group "Now We Dare"
• You prepared tax returns for elderly and low income Vermonters.
• You did Mangrove restoration in Costa Rica
• You spent six months in East Africa, promoting nutrition to people living with HIV/AIDS and pregnant/nursing mothers, as well as progressive agricultural practices to villages stricken with famine.
• You participated in international service learning trips to Uganda, Nicaragua, and Nepal
• You spent your Spring Break doing service (including several Habitat for Humanity Builds) work through the Center for Service
• You partnered all four years with a youth from a mobile housing community through DREAM's mentoring program
• You volunteered with middle school students, teaching and inspiring them to learn about science and technology.
• You served in the Army Reserves and National Guard
• You provided one-on-one academic tutoring support to English Language Learners and helped them adapt to American culture.
• You have camped out in the frigid cold to call attention to issues of homelessness and to raise money for COTS.
• You've made meals at the Ronald McDonald House
• You donned aprons and chef's hats to compete for the title of Iron Chef
Am I worried about you making the world a better place by serving your communities? No I am not - you already have.

The third piece of advice was to have fun. So...how did you perform on that front?
• YOU ate more chocolate from the chocolate fountain at the Snowball than Student Activities ever imagined possible.
• You rode the lazy river at Jay Peak during senior week and shredded the peaks at Sugarbush every weekend of the season.
• You jumped, climbed and scaled buildings through Parcore.
• You enjoyed the arts at the Flynn at an exceptional rate.
• You managed to NOT become a zombie semester after semester in the annual HvZ game
• You passed the torch onto the next generation to ensure the HvZ tradition continues.
• You were in the bleachers when the Boston Red Sox clinched the World Series
• You held League of Legends tournaments, spending your time achieving *useful* goals like "owning all the champions"
• You greatly expanded your collection of t-shirts by attending Spring Meltdown and other Student Life Events
• You planned and participated in four Snow Balls
• You planed and participated in rail jams.
• You promoted, marketed and indulged in breakfast and lunch at Handy's
• You have experienced the wonder of Wing's over Burlington, Ali Baba's, Nectars and Church Street.
• You shared your music, poetry and artistry at the Grind.
• You have made the Student Government Association a more effective voice for students.
• You enjoyed sunsets over the Adirondack Mountains.
• You have eaten way too much pizza, way too many wings and, you have played way too many video games.
• You skied and rode the front 4 at Stowe - flat out.
• You have had a wonderful time of discovery.
• You have used your time here to make lifetime friends and have fun.

Am I worried about your ability to have fun and live a life full of joy? No, I am really, really not worried about that. You already have.
Work, Serve, Have Fun. Four years later, the advice still applies but I don't need to tell you that anymore. You have already followed it. Am I worried about you assuming your place in the world. No I am not. You already have.

And so daughters and sons of Champlain, today you leave alma mater. As you do, you join an outstanding body of professional, dedicated alumni, some of whom are with us here today. I know you will continue their legacy of significant accomplishment.

The right to join them as honored graduates of Champlain College is yours - you have earned it. The honor and the privilege to be here with you today is mine and, indeed, that of the entire Champlain community. Good luck and Godspeed to each and every one of you. Congratulations!


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 champlain.edu.