What we’ve learned

Author: John Nagy ’00M.A.


Retiring Secretary of Defense Robert Gates spoke of our enduring need for a strong military. Laetare co-medalist Sister Mary Scullion, RSM, a stalwart crusader against homelessness in Philadelphia, challenged “the false values of excessive individualism and phony materialism.” Valedictorian Edward Larkin, a biological sciences major from East Lansing, Michigan, cast aside the statistics and rankings that have marked his peers’ achievements to date and sent forth his 3,100 fellow graduates with this piece of wisdom: “Greatness emerges when people engage the world of ideas and nurture their own rather than racing off to be the ‘best.’”

Every speaker at Notre Dame’s 166th commencement stood behind a grand, new tradition — the Notre Dame Podium, a gift from the School of Architecture designed and carved by Professors Robert Brandt and Kevin Buccellato. The May 22nd ceremony honored former ND football coach Lou Holtz and Chuck Lennon ’61, ’62M.A., who would retire in June as director of the alumni association, alongside notable figures in education, philanthropy, science, human rights, business and the Catholic Church.

Before the big day arrived, senior Casey Cockerham asked his classmates to reflect on their growth and the wisdom gathered during four years at Notre Dame. Here are a few selections from what they had to say.

I have learned that “for everything there is a season.” That we must trust the seasons of our hearts, as we can trust the seasons of the year. Even when winter is heavy and gray and seems indomitable, spring always comes. I have learned to accept the deaths of autumn more gracefully and, as Wendell Berry says, to “practice Resurrection.”
— Kaitlyn Kiger, theology/peace studies

To see not only with my eyes but also with my heart.
— Claire Fisher, psychology

You cannot fix or control everything. Do your best to deal successfully with problems within your control. Think about the situations within your influence, and try to make a positive impact. Pray about the troubles that are out of your control, and trust that God will bear the weight of your worry.
— Melissa Nolan, biological sciences and history

Whatever you’re afraid of, do it. That’s the only way you can ever grow.
— Casey Larkin. English and Irish studies

During my senior year, two students have passed away, Declan Sullivan and Sean Valero. As tragic as these times were, I will never forget how the student body came together at memorial Masses to mourn together, but also to pray for the repose of their souls. That is when I truly knew we were Notre Dame. We could stand together in the good times and in the bad times. We are not just Notre Dame when we cheer at a football game. . . . When everything we do is something Our Lady would be proud of, when we lead lives worthy of the namesake of our university, that is when I know we are Notre Dame.
— Conor Rogers, program of liberal studies

The most important thing I learned during my time here was to always view things with a sense of curiosity — to never hesitate to question the status quo and to never simply take something as fact or personal belief without really examining, questioning and accepting it for oneself.
— Billy Teschke, finance and psychology

Passion and desperation yield the greatest results.
— Andrew Hessert, anthropology

Follow your bliss, meet as many people as you can and sleep on airport floors if it means a cheaper flight abroad. Walk to class barefoot once it’s warm, go on spring break at least one time and always eat Taco Bell after going out. Carry a flash drive and a couple bobby pins wherever you go, don’t talk about fourth grade slumber parties in a job interview and eat the cheddar crumbed scrod in the dining hall whenever you can (which is every time because it sounds so gross that nobody else wants to try it). But most of all, breathe in the magic that fills this oasis of a campus, let the sun reflecting off of Mary put a sparkle in your eye and never forget that you are, and forever will be, Notre Dame.
— Emily Murphy, marketing and graphic design

Always keep an open door,
Go meet people you don’t know,
Build a family where you are,
Be the first to say hello.
— Emily Rankin, psychology

You learn a little bit of humility when surrounded by the best of the best and suddenly not being on top is a smack into reality. However: When you learn that you still have something unique and still have something to offer, now that’s something special.
— Margaret Skinner, science preprofessional studies

Notre Dame has taught me to reach. To not always be comfortable. You won’t have as much fun if you never take any chances.
— Andrea Bailey, chemistry

Plan on deviating from most of your plans.
— Isabel Chirase, economics and Spanish

There’s an overwhelming amount of talent at Notre Dame. Never forget, you are one of those amazing and talented people. So go forth with confidence, and be grateful for all that Notre Dame has given you.
— Katie Heinzen, electrical engineering

Think always of Christ. Think of how you can use the skills God gave you to help your fellow brothers and sisters.
— Maria Lamas, romance languages and preprofessional studies

I learned that by looking back and wishing you could redo your past Notre Dame experience, you actually take away from your Notre Dame present and future.
— J.P. Gallagher, science preprofessional studies