Sunday, May 26, 2019
Back to Ceremony
By Antony J. Friscia ’78, P’15, Chair, Board of Trustees
On behalf of the Board of Trustees, congratulations, Class of 2019. And congratulations and thanks to your families for the hard work and support they provided to get you to this day.
I also want to give a shout out to the Vassar faculty, most of whom are sitting behind me. Our faculty is second to none, and I’d like to thank them for all they’ve given you in your time here.
When I talk about Vassar, people often ask me, “What’s the value of a Vassar education?”—what they’re really asking is what’s the value of a liberal arts education. My answer is personal.
When my classmates and were sitting where you are, there were no:
- Cell phones
- Social media
We had no idea how these innovations would change everything during our lives
- Skills lost their relevance
- Jobs became obsolete
- Thriving markets faded away
Multiple times we had to learn new skills and reinvent ourselves in order to sustain ourselves. And during these times of reinvention we came to appreciate this well-rounded education. I can tell you that those who only had focused, specialized skills didn’t fare as well during these times of change.
So what does this all mean to you?
I can’t predict all the changes that advanced communications, AI and other innovations are going to lead to. The only certainty is that the pace of change will continue to accelerate, and you will need to continually reinvent yourselves and be lifelong learners in order to stay relevant. You leave here today with skills that enable you to do that. And I promise that you will increasingly value your Vassar education because of this in the years ahead.
Let me close with another story.
When I was about 30 things weren’t going very well. I was coming home from an unsuccessful trip and was taking a cab home late one night feeling sorry for myself.
The cab driver looked at me in the rear-view mirror and asked what was wrong. I told him how I was feeling—he asked me what I did, where I went to school, what I studied.
Then he told me how he had emigrated from the then Soviet Union. He had been a physicist, but when he got here his credentials weren’t accepted. So he was going to school part time and driving to pay the bills. He was filled with optimism.
Here I was feeling sorry for myself and pessimistic while I had opportunities that few in this world have, while this guy had lost everything and was optimistic.
At the end of the ride he said remember something: No matter what they do to you, the one thing they can’t take from you is your education.
I’ve never forgotten that. And I can’t tell you enough the ways it’s mattered throughout my life.
So let me leave you with that. Remember it—from this day forward the one thing they can never take from you is your Vassar education. It will always be there for you in ways you cannot yet imagine.
My best to you Class of ’19. I look forward to our paths crossing as fellow alums in the years to come. Be well.