Quoted at Commencement 2018

Professor Raymond Rodriguez leads the recession at the College of Biological Sciences’ commencement
As marshal, Professor Raymond Rodriguez leads the recessional at the College of Biological Sciences' commencement. (David Slipher/UC Davis)

As thousands of degrees were conferred at spring ceremonies, speakers sought to inspire graduates with the nobility and adventure of the work ahead, challenged them to think big, and encouraged them to touch lives with love. Here is a sampling of their remarks.

Pick up the torch

Woman speaker applauds graduates at School of Law commencement
Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye, chief justice of the California Supreme Court, applauds graduates of the School of Law. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

You will be a torchbearer because your education has taught you to recognize issues and principles, and you will pick up the torch for principles you believe in with the law on your side. And you will be unafraid to make the argument, to make the novel argument in court or in the legislature. … And that is the beauty of the law, which teaches you to speak on behalf of others, particularly others who have no voice. — Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye ’80, J.D. ’84, chief justice of the California Supreme Court, School of Law, May 19

Live the adventure

Man at graduation podium
Paul Aronowitz, professor in the UC Davis School of Medicine, presented his speech as a reading from a novel. (UC Davis photo)

Some people have described the practice of medicine as sailing the seas. Others have compared it to climbing a perilous mountain or crossing through a dense rain forest or over hot desert. Some have even compared it to riding down the Mississippi River on a leaky raft. The doctor wasn’t sure if any of these analogies really captured his years in medicine, but it was all an adventure. Continually learning about how no disease presents identically in any two patients and listening to each patient’s story or helping his students and residents and colleagues down the road and, likewise, being helped by them, was the perfect adventure. — Paul Aronowitz, professor of internal medicine, UC Davis School of Medicine, School of Medicine, May 19

Use your superpower

Ten happy graduates pose for a photograph
Happy graduates pose for photographs at the commencement for the School of Veterinary Medicine. (Don Preisler/UC Davis)

In every practice I have ever visited, there is a letter or an email from an owner of a horse that the veterinarian euthanized. … The animal is dead, you killed it, and they’re sending you a thank-you card. What happened right there is the veterinarian touched the life of the owner, offering empathy, support and encouragement on an awful day in that owner’s life. … Yes, you’ll touch animals’ lives. That’s what you’re trained for. … But you also have the opportunity to touch human lives. And that’s your superpower. … Touch as many lives as you can. — Andrew R. Clark ’75, D.V.M. ’77, chief executive officer of the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Professional Liability Insurance Trust, and consultant, School of Veterinary Medicine, May 26

Encourage others

Carolyn Turner speaks at commencement
Caroline Turner, who spoke at the ceremony for the School of Education, holds two degrees from UC Davis. (TJ Ushing/UC Davis)

As each of you prepares to step out into the field of education as new graduates and future educators, others are looking up to you and listening to your words. In a passing comment, one of my professors said that I should consider becoming a professor. Something I had not thought about. His encouragement attracted me to enter his profession and underscored for me the importance of what we say in our roles as teacher, professor, advisor and administrator. What we say can encourage or discourage others to consider their options, to think deeply about their purpose in life, and/or to pursue their hopes and dreams. — Caroline Turner ’67, M.A. ’70, professor of education at California State University, Sacramento, and Lincoln Professor emerita at Arizona State University, School of Education, June 13

Think big

Robert Tucker speaks at commencement
Speaking at the Graduate Studies commencement, Robert Tucker encourages graduates to “build a life and not just a living.” (Grad Images photo)

And that’s my encouragement to you — that you muster the courage to think big when others are thinking small. The courage to push back on those who say that the best days are behind us, our problems have grown too big. People with the biggest ideas can be shot down by people with the smallest minds. Think big anyway! And do good not only for yourself, but for others, do good for the planet. The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do it anyway! Build a life and not just a living. — Robert Tucker ’78, president of The Innovation Resource Consulting Group, Graduate Studies, June 14

Don’t take yourself too seriously

A graduate raises her arms as she crosses a graduation stage
An exuberant graduate crosses the stage at one of the commencements for the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

As I conclude, let me return to where I began on the subject of happiness, with a final piece of advice: Try not to take yourself too seriously. Think about the fun things you did as a kid that probably started you down the path of agricultural, environmental or social sciences. Maybe you raised chickens in your backyard or grew up tending horses or cows on a ranch. Perhaps you took up wildlife photography or whitewater rafting or community activism. Whatever activity it was that brought you that joy, keep doing it throughout your life — no matter how burdened or overwhelmed you might feel at times. — Gary S. May, chancellor of UC Davis, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, June 15

Leave a legacy of love

A female student speaks at commencement
Komal Sharma is one of the students who spoke at the commencements for the College of Letters and Science. (UC Davis photo)

​Whatever you do, do it with your heart. Do it with all the love you have in your heart. Drive positive change everywhere you go. Yes, some days will be hard and we won’t want to “adult.” We’ll want to hide and wish we were back in college when things weren’t so complicated or hard. But I believe in each and every one of you, and I know everyone has the ability to leave a legacy of love and positive change in this world. — Graduating senior Komal Sharma, B.S. in cognitive science, College of Letters and Science, June 16

Be a change agent for diversity

Diane Bryant at podium
Diane Bryant, chief operating officer of Google Cloud, advocates for diversity and inclusion as she speaks at the commencement for the Graduate School of Management. (Grad Images photo)

You have the passion, you have the knowledge, the resilience, the analytical rigor and the global perspective to define the future in ways both necessary and beneficial. As you shape what will become your legacy for leadership, I challenge you to be the architect of your luck, a champion for good and a change agent for diversity. Thank you for being our future leaders. The world needs you. — Diane Bryant ’​85, chief operating officer of Google Cloud, Graduate School of Management, June 16

Pursue your dreams

Ralph Hexter, provost and executive vice chancellor, presents an award to Emily Eijansantos at  commencement
Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Ralph J. Hexter presents Emily Eijansantos with the plaque for being the University Medalist, the award recognizing the top graduating senior. (David Slipher/UC Davis)

I have truly been amazed by the unparalleled dedication to service and advocacy I have seen on this campus. I have met many of you who I know will literally change this world, if you aren't already doing so, and I can't wait to read about you all in headlines someday. By following the example of UC Davis faculty and students alike, I learned that if you continue to pursue your aspirations with persistence, tenacity and integrity, then success, in every sense of the word, will catch up to you one day. And it will taste so much sweeter. — University Medalist Emily Eijansantos, B.S. in neurobiology, physiology and behaviorCollege of Biological Sciences, June 17

Be an entrepreneur

A closeup of a graduation cap decorated with circuits
UC Davis graduates have a tradition of decorating their graduation caps. (Grad Images photo)

A lot of people think you have to do startups to be an entrepreneur. You can be an entrepreneur, or intrapreneur, within a large corporation as well by finding new market opportunities for growth. After having done numerous startups as well as having been an intrapreneur multiple times I can tell you that both can be just as satisfying, for they both have that one element that all entrepreneurs are ultimately driven by: making impact. — Tim Bucher ’86, executive vice president and chief product officer at Scientific Games and owner of Trattore Farms, College of Engineering, June 17

Media Resources

Julia Ann Easley, News and Media Relations, 530-752-8248, jaeasley@ucdavis.edu

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