Saturday, December 19, 2009

Good morning, and welcome to the graduates, to my faculty and staff colleagues, to other University of Iowa students, to family and friends, and to honored guests. It is my great pleasure to share with you this remarkable and once-in-a-lifetime occasion.

Before going further, please, everyone, join me in offering congratulations to these magnificent graduates!

Many people have made this day possible. Out there in the audience are parents, grandparents, husbands, wives, partners, significant others, children, brothers, sisters, and many other relatives and friends of the graduates. Now, graduates, please join me in applauding these loved ones who have made this day possible!

Your graduation and your achievements that have led up to this day are bright spots in a year of two when we have all been greatly challenged by historic natural disasters and economic turmoil. Another bright spot in these troubled times for us here at the University and throughout Iowa has been the 2009 Iowa football team. How ‘bout them Hawks??!! Wow!! What an amazing year!

I know the Hawkeye team members may seem superhuman at times, but remember that they are students, just like all of you. Many of their University experiences are just like everyone else’s—and that includes graduation. Eleven of our Hawkeyes are graduating today, and I would like to recognize them and thank them for a remarkable year. Graduating but not here with us today are Pat Angerer, Dan Doering, Kyle Calloway, Andy Kuempel, Taylor Herbst, Tony Moeaki, and Chad Geary. And planning to be with us here today in Carver Hawkeye Arena are Trey Stross, Joe Conklin, Rafael Eubanks, and Kyle Spalding.

Let’s give a round of applause to these Hawkeyes for their achievements on the field and in the classroom in 2009.

I think the 2009 Hawkeyes have a lot to teach us about achieving success. The end results, of course, are more than admirable—a nine-game winning streak, a #10 national ranking, and a BCS berth in the Orange Bowl. But just as important as the outcome is how they got there.

The Hawkeyes always perform with integrity. But this scrappy team performed with a little extra special heart and grit. You could almost taste their determination to succeed—certainly an inspiration to any of us as we pursue our own goals in life.

But these Hawkeyes went a step or two beyond determination—they ignored expectations, and they never gave up. At the beginning of the season, the 2009 Hawkeyes weren’t much of a blip on too many radar screens across the country. But they refused to be defined by what others said they were, or by the expectations placed on them—low or high. They just went out and got the job done.

As you graduate from Iowa, there may be people who have told you what you should be, what you should do, and sometimes even what you can’t do. But I hope that if your college education has proven one thing to you, it’s that your destiny is in your own hands. You are responsible for your own fate, and you have the talent and resources deep within you to carve out an identity and a life as you want it to be.

Secondly, our stalwart Hawkeyes never gave up. Now, guys, you didgive us a few heart attacks along the way! I seem to remember a last-minute pull-a-victory-out-of-your-hat a time or two! Michigan State? Indiana? Sound familiar? But those games were all part of the thrill of the 2009 Hawkeyes. And those games tell us a lot about the Iowa Hawkeye character.

Similar to other people not defining who and what you are, any particular moment in time does not define what your future will bring to you. Sure, the Hawks were down sometimes—even to the literal last second. But that didn’t determine the game. Yogi Berra was right: “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.” And the Hawks inspired us to see the truth in that old saying this year. At Michigan State, they didn’t let the previous 59 minutes and 58 seconds of play determine what that game was going to be—a historic Hawkeye victory.

Today, at this very moment, we are celebrating your past achievements that have culminated in your graduation. And you all have ambitions, expectations, and prospects for what comes next. At the same time, the future—even the immediate future—is not pre-determined. Opportunities or challenges may confront you, requiring you to redefine who you are and what you are doing, even in that very moment. Another thing that I hope your college education has taught you is open-mindedness, which makes you ready to respond to the unexpected, the surprising, the sudden change, and even the seemingly insurmountable challenge. Such flexibility and nimbleness are what lead our faculty and staff to new discovery in their research and teaching, and that’s what leads to success in your own life as you walk your own path into the future. Remember, Ricky Stanzi and Marvin McNutt changed everything at Michigan State with an historic touchdown pass—in literally the last two seconds.

While all of you graduates are on the verge of new beginnings, we also are celebrating today a long life of achievement. In presenting Henry Tippie with an honorary degree, we not only thank him for what he has done for students at The University of Iowa, but we also honor him for his tremendous record of remarkable accomplishments.

Henry Tippie teaches us much the same lesson as the 2009 Hawkeyes. His humble beginnings in a one-room schoolhouse in Belle Plaine, Iowa; his opportunity to go to college through the G.I. Bill; and his modest career start as a junior accountant in Des Moines did not determine what the rest of his future would be. Like this year’s Hawkeyes, Mr. Tippie worked hard, drew upon his ingenuity and creativity, and always kept his eye on future possibilities. The result is an amazing life and career full of singular achievements, as Dean Curt Hunter outlined for you just a few minutes ago. And, just as the 2009 Hawkeyes have given Iowans much to be thankful for, Henry Tippie exemplifies the spirit of giving back and sharing success with others.

Henry Tippie and the Hawkeye football team—kind of an unusual pairing, I think. But on this special day, I hope you see the common ground that these great Iowans share, and the complementary lessons that you can carry forward into your new life after this day.

Congratulations once again to you all—on your path hard-traveled, on your achievements well-earned, and on your future brightly lit. And thank you, as graduates of this magnificent institution, for being—once and always—the greatest of Iowa Hawkeyes!