by Michael A. MacDowell
At colleges and universities across the country, college presidents oftentimes offer remarks to their graduating classes. These short speeches are designed to provide the new graduates with some perspective as they enter a rapidly changing world and embark on new chapters in their lives.
My message to the 378 students who waited to receive their undergraduate and graduate degrees at Misericordia University’s spring commencement was simple: Being obsolete is in the eye of the beholder. I told the soon-to-be graduates and their proud friends and family members that Apple, one of our country’s iconic and most successful companies, had recently declared its first iPhone archaic even though it is only six years old.
In my eyes, that very first iPhone is the symbol of today’s ever-changing world. It revolutionized the way people conducted business and stayed in touch with each other – whether it was through a simple mobile phone call, texting, e-mailing or various social media sites – but it also marked the beginning of less personalization.
It is reassuring, if not downright comforting, to know that with the rapidity of change being so blatantly obvious in today’s world that certain human characteristics remain constant. These are the building blocks – the foundation if you will – of one’s life.
At Misericordia University, for example, we make every effort to help students learn to lead successful and fulfilled lives and careers based upon the tenets of Mercy, Service, Justice and Hospitality that were established by our founders, the Religious Sisters of Mercy. Our graduates use this underpinning as the basis for how they lead their lives and make important decisions.
The Misericordia way is seen through the 158,000 hours of community service that was provided to those in need throughout the world last year, in the caring approach students and graduates of the University take in helping people who are less fortunate, and in searching for the best in everyone they meet. Their concern for social justice and their belief that all people should give back to society regardless of their current position or station in life bodes well for their future and for the communities they will call home.
The outcomes of most college educations are not wholly dissimilar from that of Misericordia. But there is something about a values-based institution that helps students combine an excellent education with superb career preparation while honing in students the passion to serve others. Those who know Misericordia graduates and those of other excellent Catholic colleges in the area know what I mean.
It is inevitable. Change will always take place and, in a technology-based society like ours, that change will occur rapidly. However, the education and the values gained during your college experiences should and probably will remain constant throughout your lives.
It is that value construct that allows individuals to place the rapid change in technology, job requirements, civic engagement and lifestyles into perspective. It is the stuff upon which a life well lived is based.
So while the latest iPhone or tablet may rapidly become obsolete, the abilities one develops in college and the values one hones there will serve one well for the rest of their lives. They will be the lasting and durable components of a life worth living and will serve them well for the rest of their lives.
Michael A. MacDowell is president of Misericordia University in Dallas, Pa., where he occasionally teaches economics.