Thank you, President Folt for your very generous and kind words.
From the moment you stepped on campus, July 1 2019, as the 12th President of the University of Southern California your steadfast leadership has guided us through significant legacy challenges and the headwinds of COVID, all the while restoring and embracing the optimism and opportunity of the Trojan spirit. You have built a world class leadership team and have set us on a course to fulfill our mission as one of the world’s foremost academic research universities. We are all very grateful.
Now, in preparing for tonight’s and tomorrow’s activities I did a bit of digging and research about the background and history of honorary degrees, also known by the Latin phrases honoris causa (“for the sake of the honour”). The list of honorary degree recipients at USC and elsewhere is quite impressive and I find myself humbled to receive such an honor.
One particular recipient stood out among the others, and according the Wikipedia, that source we all inevitably land on, “In 1996, Southampton College …a campus of Stony Brook University, awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Amphibious Letters to Muppet, Kermit the Frog. Although some students objected to awarding a degree to a Muppet, Kermit delivered an enjoyable commencement address and the small college received considerable press coverage.”
We can all aspire to Kermit’s worldwide impact on environmental activism, and in all seriousness, I aspire to the impact of my fellow Honorary Degree recipients and applaud their contributions to society. Allyson, Brian, Ron, Frank, and Bina, it’s an honor to stand among you at commencement tomorrow.
USC is a remarkable university with its 22 academic schools and a world class medical research and clinical care institution, but USC is also a state of mind.
The central mission of the University of Southern California is the development of human beings and society as a whole through the cultivation and enrichment of the human mind and spirit. USC has played a major role in the development of Southern California for more than a century, and plays an increasingly important role in the development of the nation and the world.
I first set foot on campus as an 18 year old freshman straight off the plane from the Midwest. I knew from that very moment that USC was my home, and that the education I was about to receive would offer me the opportunity to pursue my own dreams and passions. My experience at USC set the foundation for a future of lifelong learning and curiosity. Just as significantly, the cultivation of my own human spirit during my four years here helped me develop a lifetime dedication of service to society and my community.
In the many intervening years between my own graduation and today, I’ve had the privilege of staying connected and serving the University in a myriad of ways, both in and out of the classroom, as have the many thousands of others in the Trojan Family.
Today, as a member of the Board of Trustees, I can say with robust confidence that under President Folt’s all-encompassing student-centric leadership, every student on our campuses is given the same potential as I had to achieve their highest aspirations and become their best self. I applaud and congratulate all the graduates in tomorrow’s commencement ceremonies. The recognition I’ve received today will continue to inspire me to ensure USC fulfills its role to train our students to become responsible global citizens of the future. Thank you very much