Share this story

Commencement Address: UMass Medical School's 41st Commencement

Chancellor Michael F. Collins.It is a special privilege each commencement day to have the opportunity to offer a few final thoughts to our graduates and the community that has gathered to support them, as we recognize their most important accomplishments.

Today’s joyous Commencement ceremony provides a most fitting end to another outstanding year on our campus. Just look at the exceptional and dedicated students who we continue to attract to our schools. Our faculty and students continue to demonstrate their keen intellect, compassion and innovation skills as they receive numerous accolades for their scholarly contributions.

Could I ask the members of our faculty who are present today to rise and be recognized.

What a special institution we have!

Our colleagues at MassBiologics continue efforts toward the discovery of medicines that save lives across the globe. At Commonwealth Medicine, we play a pivotal role as we care for those most in need and we strive to maximize resources in furtherance of that mission. The life sciences thrive throughout the five campuses of our university as we commit to increase our impact and influence in areas of discovery and innovation.

Our health care system has partnered with us as we create a bold vision for our common future. That blueprint will inspire as we aspire to an ambitious shared destiny. Just imagine what we can accomplish as we engage the insights of our collective imagination to meet the needs of our community, patients, faculty, trainees and students. We will become health care futurists as we design patient care, education and research mission goals, which our graduates of today will lead and fulfill for decades to come.

While these graduates embraced all that our campus has to offer, the campus itself was transformed. Thanks to the visionary leadership of the governor, the legislature, our university leaders, our faculty and community, we have created the finest education and research complex, to provide our outstanding faculty and students a locus for their intellectual inquiry.

In many ways, this space we occupy has become a “Field of Dreams.” You see, just 45 years ago this was a field. A few cattle grazed; some vegetables were raised and many gathered to sit on the hill and watch races on the lake. Who could have imagined what we would become? The accolades are many: fifth in the nation in primary care; a Nobel Prize in 2006; a Lasker Prize in 2009; our fifth member of the National Academy of Sciences in 2014; groundbreaking discoveries this year in HIV and Down syndrome! This list could go on for quite a while.

But there is no greater accomplishment than those who graduate this day. For we have seen them as they were; their lives were transformed before our eyes and we look to the greatness they will bring to our world.

In Main South and Mattapan, in Mumbai and Monrovia, in Barre and the Berkshires, in Port au Prince and Chengdu, today, UMass makes a difference. Our institution is on the move and these students have earned their rightful place as graduates who will continue that legacy.

Vision, resilience and determination: these are the hallmarks of our graduates and honorees today.

Look, the bottom line is that you don’t graduate from nursing school, medical school or earn a PhD in science without these characteristics: vision, resilience and determination. Thus, we celebrate this day.

Maintain the idealism you brought with you to this campus. Let me exhort you not to be blinded by indifference. In our world, so few are given the opportunity and privilege that you have been given to care for and about others throughout the rest of your lives.

There will be moments when it will be easier to turn away than to engage. I hope that you will be able to find the time to care.

There will be times when cutting a corner is easier than perseverance. Remember, just OK is not good enough.

There will be colleagues and patients who need you when time is short. Your presence to them matters.

As you begin your careers, and as you continue in them, we hope that you will be inspired by those we pay tribute to today:

Like H. Brownell Wheeler, will you have the vision to see a building like Shaw and a field on the shores of a Worcester lake and commit yourself to its future success; all the while taking the risks to transform those into an academic medical center of great distinction replete with world class clinical care, education and science?

Like Cherylann and Len Gengel, will you have the resilience to surmount the most significant obstacles, both personal and professional, and find the resolve to overcome the challenges that confront you and in so doing, motivate others while giving of yourself in selfless acts of love and compassion?

Like James McGovern, will you have the determination to live a life in service to others and while doing so, recognize the importance of the public good and the higher ideals that can be realized with your leadership and support?

Vision, resilience and determination will afford you the opportunity to fulfill the tenets of your personal ideals and the high calling of your professions.

As you embark upon your bright futures, we shall watch with heightened anticipation for your many accomplishments. We hope that you will remain mindful that our communities, our commonwealth, our nation and our world need you.

We need your intellect and innovation.

We need your care and compassion.

We need your humility and humanity.

And, all the while, know that we will take great pride in recognizing you as one of our own.