Saturday, May 25, 10:40 a.m.
The University of Texas — Bass Concert Hall
This is the speech President Fenves gave during the program for the 2019 Doctoral Hooding Ceremony at The University of Texas at Austin:
Thank you, Dean Smith.
The doctoral hooding ceremony is very meaningful to me … for many reasons.
One, is that of all the students on the Forty Acres, you, our doctoral graduates, have achieved the very highest level of academic distinction. You have not only mastered your disciplines, but you have become leaders in your fields and have taught, created, designed, published, composed … and conducted influential research.
For you, this isn’t a graduation in the ordinary sense of the word. It is the culmination of years of work. You’ve set yourselves apart. You’ve built your reputations. You’ve traveled a long way down your chosen paths … and now the journey will continue and evolve. That is the purpose of earning a doctorate at UT.
This celebration is a marker of how far you’ve come … how much you’ve accomplished … and how prepared you are for everything that will come next.
Another reason this ceremony holds great meaning for me is that I was once a doctoral graduate myself.
Now, it was a long time ago … before most of you were born. But it’s one of those indelible memories … graduation day … that is still vivid in my mind. Still rich with meaning and significance all these years later.
On that day, I was accompanied by my fiancée Carmel, just two weeks before our wedding. I had studied civil engineering at UC Berkeley, and my career was just beginning to take shape. For years, the Bay Area had been our home. But that was about to change. We were set to move a thousand miles away, for my first job as an assistant professor … to this big research university in Texas. In a cool city called Austin, which was not anywhere close to being the international destination that it is now.
I remember sitting at commencement, in my regalia … with my ’80s hair cut … thinking about Austin, which would become our home … And The University of Texas, where I would continue my research and teaching. Was I ready for this? Was I up for the challenge?
Well, a few months later I began to discover that the answer to these questions was, “yes.” My doctoral studies had given me the tools to think on my feet and take on classrooms full of energetic students, looking for guidance, direction and … sometimes … an extension on their homework. My Ph.D. had prepared me for the rigors of academic research and shown me how to analyze challenging problems and develop creative and thoughtful solutions. And Austin became a special place for me and Carmel. And when we returned to it two decades later, it would become our entire family’s home once again.
That was what my Ph.D. provided for me — a pathway to all of these life-changing opportunities. And for each of you, it will be different … you will have your own stories and your own journeys … but the immense potential to achieve is something you all share.
You have the knowledge. You have the discipline to do extraordinary things. And I know this, because by being here today … having earned your Ph.D. … you have already done something extraordinary … an accomplishment that few will ever reach in their lifetimes.
So, for all the graduates here … dressed in your regalia … with your 2019 haircuts … thinking about your next steps, I just want you to know that you’re much more prepared for this next phase of life than you’ll ever know.
In the years ahead … if doubt should ever enter your mind … use your experiences here at UT for reassurance. Remember how much you’ve learned. How much work and time you’ve already put in. You’re ready for anything. It’s true.
Graduates, I congratulate you on this monumental achievement. Celebrate it. Savor it. And value it … wherever it may lead you.