The student speaker at this year’s commencement was Presli Neal, a first-generation college student from Lexington. The neuroscience major has been a member of the Student Government Association, Pre-Health Club, Pre-Physician Assistant Club and STEM Empowerment Club, and she has served as membership director of her sorority, Phi Mu. She plans to attend physician assistant school and hopes to work in pediatrics or emergency medicine. Her remarks are below.
Good morning to all of you gathered here to celebrate the class of 2019 — faculty, staff, family, friends, and, of course, students.
If you are anything like me, the last few weeks have sparked mixed emotions when thinking about graduating and officially being considered adults in the “real world”, even if you don’t quite feel like you are one yet. I sure don’t.
About a month ago I was cleaning out old folders and notebooks from over my years here at Transy, and I found a letter that I had written to myself during August Term of 2015, not to be opened until I was about to graduate.
Now, I had honestly completely forgotten about writing this letter, and I thought to myself, “Were you really that cheesy as a first year?”
Obviously, I was.
But I’m glad I wrote it. The letter was comprised of a list of advice to myself, inspirational quotes, and things I hoped to accomplish by the end of my senior year.
Although it has twenty-something bullets, two points stood out and really stuck with me. The first said, and I quote, “Don’t you dare eat grilled cheese every day for lunch.”
The second point I wrote to myself, which is a little more serious, said, “No matter the destination, take time to enjoy the path”.
Many of you are leaving here and continuing your education, whether it is medical school, law school, dentistry, business school, the list goes on and on. Others are going to be teachers, some are taking a gap year or working, and a few are even traveling the world.
No matter what your specific destination is, we can’t deny that together we have had one wildly unique path here at Transy. I mean, think about it. We were one of the last groups to all live under the roof of Forrer.
Now, say what you want about that building, but you can’t deny that it brought us close together and fostered some really special memories. The rounds of putt-putt that were played in the halls, the morning conversations while 15 people were brushing their teeth in one bathroom, the fact that Second Front was always THE place to be, or even the fire alarms that went off at 3 in the morning…each experience caused us all to share something in common, uniting us and allowing us to form a unique bond that has lasted over the past 4 years.
This is why Transy is such a special institution; in the midst of a liberal arts education with a high academic standard, we have had one another to lean on, count on, and support.
We have supported one another’s school organizations and philanthropies, we have cheered one another on during finals, and we have come together when tragedy struck and we lost one of our own peers.
The openness, the genuineness and the love that we have for one another is truly magical, and I can say with confidence that not every college, even ones with a relatively small population like ours, is capable of that. It is that love, that humor, that sympathy, that I believe has made our path at Transy enjoyable and memorable. And those same factors will allow us to create genuine connections with anyone we meet, no matter which direction our individuals paths take us.
Michelle Tillis Lederman, an author and CEO who was named by Forbes as one of the top 25 Professional Networking Experts, comments on forming relationships and says that, “Whether they stem from business or personal situations, our relationships are what support us, connect us, and allow us to progress in all aspects of our lives.”
As you advance in society, take time to reflect on the relationships you have made here at Transy. Think of your advisors, mentors, professors, coaches, and peers. Think of how we stood on this exact lawn four years ago and shook each other’s hands and introduced ourselves.
Then think about you have reached for some of those same hands in times of need over your years here. Think about how they all have impacted you and aided in your own path of self discovery. And as you do, I hope you recognize that you have also influenced those around you.
Transylvania, in true liberal arts fashion, has provided us a set of skills to question the world around us, to think deeply about who we are, and how we can impact others. And class of 2019, I am positive that, no matter what you do, you will greatly impact the world around you and will continue to treat others with kindness and love.
A university is a university, but it is the people that attend that make it a home. And I am so thankful to share this home, and path, with each of you.
And just in case you are wondering, I did not eat a grilled cheese for lunch every day.
Thank you and congratulations Class of 2019!
We did it!