Commencement 2023: Speech by Board of Trustees President Alisia St. Florian ’86

June 22, 2023

On behalf of the Board of Trustees I am honored to welcome you, students, parents, families and friends to Wheeler’s 134th commencement exercises. Congratulations to the class of 2023!

This is a day to celebrate you, the graduates, and to reflect on your years at Wheeler as you prepare to embark on your next chapters.
Undoubtedly, you each come to today with your own set of experiences, perspectives, accomplishments and challenges during your time at Wheeler. As in life, the ups and downs you have faced thus far have surely strengthened, humbled and emboldened you. The friendships you have made, the bonds you have forged will nourish you as you expand your personal circles, socially, academically, locally and globally. My hope is that you see your time at Wheeler as a foundation upon which you will build your life knowing that you have this community to support and cheer you on. I can say from experience, as a graduate of Wheeler myself, that the power of your Wheeler friendships and experiences will fuel you for the rest of your life. In fact, a child of one of my closest Wheeler friend and classmates is a member of today’s graduating class.

If I may be so bold, I have a piece of advice for you to consider, graduates, as you go out into the world. It is simple and straightforward and something each of you can do today. This advice is as follows: set a few guiding principles for yourself. Each of you will need to decide for yourself what those are. They should be concrete, doable and something you can practice everyday.

For me, one of my most important guiding principle is this: once you put a commitment in your calendar you do not cancel it under any circumstances absent a true emergency.

What this principle means to me is that I strive to be dependable. That may not sounds like a lofty goal but if you stick to this principle with fidelity it means people can count on you to show up when you say you will. It means you are true to your word and reliable. It means you do what you say you will do and you value your commitment to others. It means you are trustworthy.

But really what this principle does is lets you know that you can count on yourself. When you look at your week’s calendar, everything on it going to happen as scheduled unless cancelled by someone else or in the case of a true emergency. You cannot make excuses that you are too tired or too busy to attend a social event, for example, on a rainy cold February evening when you would much rather stay home. You cannot bow out of a work commitment that is giving you anxiety by feigning illness. You cannot ask for an extension to finish a project or paper simply because you did not manage your time well. This principle means you show up as scheduled. No excuses allowed. And by excuses I mean things you tell yourself to justify not doing what you agreed to do. In sum, practicing this principle shows me that I can rely on myself.

None of this, of course, happens immediately or overnight. That is the beauty of setting a guiding principle. Once you have decided upon it, you work everyday to adhere to it. Some days you succeed and many days you will fail but the principle always remains. The principle does not diminish when it it not achieved. It does not disappear when you take a break from it. Rather it serves as a reminder that you are always striving toward something, whatever that may be. And when you are striving you are living with purpose and optimism. A sense that tomorrow may bring joy or peace or quiet contentment. Even when these things don’t happen and even when things go terribly wrong there is optimism that the next day, the next moment even may bring something good or at least something better.

This is my hope for you, graduates. That you move forth from today with the sense of purpose and the optimism you will need to realize all of your dreams. May you always be guided by your principles. With that, on behalf of the Board of Trustees, our most heartfelt congratulations to the class of 2023.