When I received President
Switzer’s letter with her gracious offer of an honorary degree, I was deeply
humbled. And I’ll be honest with you; I was also unsure why it would come to
It’s true that I attended Manchester College but I
did not graduate – until today. It’s also true that I have been a willing
supporter of the sciences here at Manchester.
But really, what could I, as a 92-year-old past
attendee of Manchester College say to all of you, who are 70 years my junior and
live in a very different world that what I knew at your age?
70 years is a long time.
When I was at Manchester, we wrote our papers by
hand; you use laptops and PCs. We turned in our papers in class. You do
something called email, or posting. When you communicate with one another you
text; you use a cell phone. I don’t even have an answering machine.
If I’m home, people reach me. If I’m not, then they
don’t. I keep it simple.
My dining room was the basement of Oakwood Hall and
much of our food was donated or purchased from local farmers and we paid an
entire 21 cents a meal. What I had for lunch today was excellent – and it did
not look at all like what we ate in a very different time, under very different
After all, the Depression was still in full-force.
The war in Europe had started and there was lots of speculation of our
And yet, amidst all these changes there is one thing
that is constant. And it is this:
When you have a degree from Manchester College, you
have something of real value. Not just perceived value or speculative value. But
Now I may not have graduated or received a degree
from Manchester College (until today), but my brother Gus did. He graduated in
1941, over 70 years ago.
And what was true then is still true today. He took
his transcripts and application down to Bloomington. He was applying to law
school. This was in 1945, four years after he was called into service for World
So, four years after receiving his degree from this
place, he walked into the Admissions Office, papers in hand, and showed them to
the admissions officer, and the reply came:
“Oh, Manchester College – no problem; you’re
That was nearly 70 years ago; the height of the GI
Bill, when there was a large number of applicants to colleges and universities
across the country. And that sentiment still echoes today.
When you accounting students, prospective med
students, social workers, business majors, education majors and all across the
disciplines, begin to find your way into the world of work, the response seems
to be similar:
“Oh, Manchester – that’s a good education. You’re
ready; you’re qualified.”
These are not perceived values; these are real
values. This is your legacy. This is now yours to uphold as you carry this
legacy into the world. This is a cherished institution. This is a well-earned
This is what we now hold in common. And I am honored
to be counted among you.
So tonight, when you settle into your home or
wherever your car takes you, I’ll probably be asleep. This degree stuff is
exhausting. And maybe we have one other thing in common: Tomorrow you’ll likely
sleep in, maybe until noon. I do that sometimes, too.
And know this: What you are about to receive in that
black folder isn’t status, or rank, or privilege, but a well-earned place in a
legacy that will carry you forward. Carry it forward with dignity.
And should you choose to fully embrace it, you will
leave this world a little bit better than you found it.
Blessings upon you all for work well-done, and for
good work yet to be done. I’m proud of you, and humbled to share this honor with
Thank you, thank you very much.