2017 Spring Commencement

Graduates, members of the Board of Regents, President Benson, members of the faculty and staff, parents, distinguished guests, family and friends; it is my pleasure and honor to have the opportunity to address you today as the chancellor of the University of Colorado Boulder.

I know today's graduates join me in extending a special welcome to their family and friends, whose love and support have helped to make this day possible. Please join me in showing our appreciation for them.

With us today are many members of the faculty who have guided and mentored these graduates. They have shared their time, knowledge and expertise to help each student reach this important milestone.

A man you have already met on stage, our commencement marshal, Dean James Williams is retiring after nearly 30 years serving the university as dean of libraries and 27 years as the voice of CU Boulder commencement. Today marks his final commencement ceremony. Like all of you, he is graduating to the next chapter in life. Thank you, Dean Williams, for your many years serving our students and helping them to celebrate with their families.

Today, it is my privilege to take a couple of minutes to address the class of 2017. You chose Buffs basketball alumna and world-class sports reporter Kate Fagan as your commencement speaker. So, I will begin with a sports analogy.

Olympic gold medalist Ralph Boston, the first person to break the 27-foot barrier in the long jump, once said that if you cross the finish line you are a winner . . . "But it’s what you do after you cross the finish line that really counts," he said.

I would like to talk, for a minute, about what you do after you cross the finish line.

There are things you may want to hear today like chase your dream, never give up, and be true to yourself. It’s all good advice.

But then there are things you need to hear. As graduates, you are preparing to enter a volatile world that is in a high state of change—geo-politically, economically, technologically and environmentally. The single certainty of the world is that it will look different tomorrow than it does today.

In his 2016 book, Thank You for Being Late, Thomas Friedman notes that, thanks to an exponential increase in computing power, climbers atop Everest have excellent cell phone service, and self-driving cars are taking to the roads. An explosion of economic interdependency has created new riches as well as spiraling debt burden. Meanwhile, Mother Nature is also seeing dramatic changes as carbon levels rise and species go extinct.

The pace of change is exceeding society’s capacity to adapt. The future is challenging.

The good news is that you are fully equipped to become the leaders of tomorrow to take on these challenges.

In your career at CU Boulder you have learned valuable lessons in critical thinking, civil discourse, collaborative decision making and creative solutions, skills required in our complex society.

You have learned to be well-rounded creative thinkers and problem solvers regardless of your degree, flexible and adaptable in a rapidly changing world, prepared to be the leaders and innovators who will positively impact humanity.

Yes, you have crossed the finish line at CU. But as you cross the finish line, now what will you do?

My hope is that you will connect with your community to find solutions. I hope that you will call on all that you have learned. All that you have become. And continue to bridge with your university and its resources.   

And, I hope you will stay connected to your CU community as a Forever Buff, as Kate Fagan has.

Now I have the honor of introducing our commencement speaker.

Kate Fagan is a sports writer and commentator for ESPN and a CU Boulder alumna! As a member of the women’s basketball team at CU, she set a conference free-throw record. 

She graduated in 2004 with a degree in communication, and today she is a columnist and feature writer for ESPN-W, EPSN.com and ESPN The Magazine. She is also a regular panelist on ESPN’s Around the Horn and can be seen on First Take and His & Hers, which air on ESPN-2. Previously Ms. Fagan covered the Philadelphia 76ers basketball team for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Her 2014 memoir, The Reappearing Act: Coming Out as Gay on a College Basketball Team Led by Born-Again Christians, garnered great attention. Her new book, What Made Maddy Run: The Secret Struggles and Tragic Death of an All-American Teen, is due out Aug. 1.

We are proud to have her as an alumna. Kate comes to us from Brooklyn, New York. Please welcome Kate Fagan!