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May 22, 2007, Volume 53, No. 34

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Penn Commencement Remarks by Dr. Larry Gladney, professor of physics, and Incoming Chair of the Faculty Senate, Monday, May 14, 2007.

Learning from and with Our Students

Larry Gladney

As the representative of the faculty, it is my privilege to offer you congratulations on a spectacular achievement:  earning a degree from Penn. We, the faculty, and you, started our common journey as instructors and students, but we end it here as colleagues in learning. Indeed, I know that many of the faculty share my view that one of the great joys of teaching is being able to have the chance to learn from and with our students. We’ve shared each other’s thoughts and opinions. We’ve worked on research projects pushing at the frontiers of knowledge and we’ve shared in efforts which reach out to our surrounding community. Although we’ve shared so much, we, the faculty, are proud to see you, our students, go on to a lifetime of learning, achievement, and leadership. In that spirit, I would offer you just one last lecture.

It is typical of times like this that you hear inspirational words from the founder of our great university, Benjamin Franklin. Since his words have inspired me since early childhood, I could not choose a single quote to leave with you, so I’ve chosen to share with you several that have been important in my own life. These are words which inspire us to commitment and communication. First, Franklin states “All who think cannot but see there is a sanction like that of religion which binds us in partnership in the serious work of the world.” Commit yourself to doing that “serious work.” The world needs your talents; make it your destiny to share them freely and encourage others to do the same.

To share ideas freely, you must also communicate well. The democracy of our country cannot thrive without the voices and opinions of our young people.  Franklin wisely reminds us that words and deeds speak equally loudly.  To paraphrase him: “Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing about.” Be sure that your actions and your words communicate to people what you would most want them to know about you. Speak freely, listen well, and encourage others to do the same. Though your journey through life now takes you away from Penn, the part of that journey we shared leaves an indelible imprint on you and on those of us who stay behind to teach the incoming class. Again, I offer you congratulations and good luck.

Almanac - May 22, 2007, Volume 53, No. 34