In the words of Ramon Robert Rios III, the days of “living off ramen” are over.
For Rios, president of Elizabethtown College’s class of 2017, that means boarding a plane and heading to Puerto Rico — or, as he called it, “paradise” — to unwind after four years of rigorous schoolwork. For others, it may mean preparing for graduate school or taking on their dream job.
No matter the journey each graduate takes from this point, Elizabethtown President Carl Strikwerda said, each will have one thing in common.
“These graduates will honor this education by serving the world,” he said, emphasizing the college’s motto, “educate for service.”
That was the theme of Elizabethtown’s 114th commencement, held outdoors on a brisk, overcast morning Saturday. Hundreds of visitors — plus a few dogs — came out to support the graduates, lying or sitting on the grass, wrapped in blankets.
Later that day, a ceremony was held for the 193 adult students graduating through the School of Continuing and Professional Studies.
Lynn Pasquerella, president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, gave the commencement address during the traditional ceremony, during which she spoke about the meaning of life and the importance of serving others.
“Elizabethtown has set you on the path of finding your best and most authentic selves,” she told the graduates.
As a philosopher, she said, purpose is always something she’s chasing after. And while each student’s purpose may vary, she said meaning and fulfillment, to her, comes in two forms.
The first — service to others.
The second — baseball.
Baseball, she said, quoting the late scholar (and former Major League Baseball commissioner) Bartlett Giamatti, reminds us “how slight and fragile are the circumstances that exalt one group of human beings over another.”
Life, in other words, is full of ups and downs, downs so sudden they can break someone’s heart. Baseball, for avid fans, is very similar.
The unpredictable nature of life, therefore, makes it all the more important to stay true to oneself, she said.
“We all have a right to experience being,” Pasquerella said. “We are all entitled to live in our strengths. We all deserve the opportunity to find our best selves.”
Before the ceremony ended, Rios told his fellow graduates — 513 in all — while “life isn’t all sunshine and rainbows,” Elizabethtown College has taught them how to persevere and find strength during trying times.
In life, he said, they must have faith within themselves, have the courage to stand up for what’s right and, most importantly, approach every new opportunity with a smile.
“Never stop smiling,” he said. “(And) enjoy your paradise.”