President's Office

Speeches & Communications

Good afternoon.  A warm welcome to students, faculty, staff, families, and guests.  As Marist College’s (somewhat new) president, I was so thrilled to learn of our branch campus and close partnership with LdM.  I had an amazing visit about six weeks ago to meet many of you, to attend your classes, and to learn more about the rich history of both Marist Italy and the Lorenzo de’Medici Institute.  I’m delighted to have made the return trip to Florence to honor each of you, and to celebrate your graduation today.  

I’d like to start by thanking John Peters, Vanessa Nichol-Peters, and rest of the Marist Italy team for the terrific work they do.  It’s very unusual for an American college or university to have a branch campus somewhere else in the world, especially one as small as Marist.  Running a successful branch campus is an extraordinary challenge...one that you have handled with grace and expertise for years now.  I’m extremely grateful for all you do for the students who come here to study. 

I’d also like to thank Carla Guarducci and the Lorenzo de’Medici faculty and staff for being amazing educators, and such terrific partners with Marist.  Marist’s longstanding partnership with LdM is so unique, and a true gem.  I have been impressed with this partnership since my first day on the job, and I am very excited about the potential for this partnership to become stronger in the future. 

Most of all, I want to recognize the graduating students...students earning their master’s and bachelor’s degrees from Marist, and students earning certificates from LdM.  You haven’t had an easy time these last couple of years.  What should have been carefree years focused on learning and development ended up being anything but. The pandemic created health risks, restrictions, hardships, frustration, and confusion.  But despite it all, you persevered.  You adapted.  You supported each other.  I want you to know how much I admire you for it.   

Unfortunately, Covid is not the only challenge the world is facing right now.  There’s the war in Ukraine – which in today’s interconnected world, doesn’t feel far away at all, whether you’re in the United States or here in Florence.  There’s also, climate change, inflation and economic uncertainty, and a troubling trend away from democracy, just to name a few. I could go on, but I think you get the point.  You’re graduating at a tough time.   

However, I’m confident that you are the ones we need right now to confront these challenges.  The world we live in is more diverse and interconnected than ever – and the issues we’re facing require cooperation, mutual understanding, and respect.  Fortunately, you’ve got the skills needed to succeed.  You’re ready to work across cultures and borders...you’ve already been doing just that.  You’ve challenged yourselves and taken risks. So, I know that you’re well positioned to find solutions and help create a brighter future for us all. 

In closing, I’d like to leave you with three pieces of advice as you contemplate the future: 1) be humble; 2) follow your passions; and 3) embrace the randomness of it all.
 
It sounds counterintuitive, but humility is actually one of the best traits you can have if you ever hope to be an effective leader, and to make a difference.  It’s something the world needs more of right now.  Humility means accepting your imperfections and shortcomings.  It means realizing that your achievements aren’t solely your own – you’ve benefited from the assistance of others and good fortune, and that’s ok.  Maybe you’ve benefited from forms of privilege not available to others.   
 
As a result, humility leads to an incessant thirst for improvement.  It allows you to seek feedback, advice, and support.  If you’re not always worried about projecting an image of success, you’re more likely to try different things and take measured risks.  This is the best way to discover how far you can go in life. 
 
Also, follow your passions.  You’ve heard it a million times, but it has the virtue of being true.  I suspect that each and every one of you found yourselves here in this unique learning environment because you were following your passions.  This will serve you well in the future.  If you love what you do, you’ll be good at it, and you’ll find that doors will open for you.  
 
Third, embrace the randomness of it all.  I’m all for planning – I’ve spent most of my career specializing in budgeting and other forms of financial planning.  But sometimes planning is overrated.  Life will take you in directions you can’t imagine today – if only you let it.  When I majored in accounting almost 30 years ago, I promise you I never imagined my life would twist and turn its way so that I’d be here with you today. 
 
So, avoid the temptation to “play it safe” – not taking a risk is a risk itself.  Let the current take you where it will.  I am sure you’ll be surprised...in a good way...with what you find.  And you have the skills to succeed, no matter what life throws at you. 
 
Thanks for listening, and congratulations again to the Class of 2022!