At Winter Session last month, two graduates chose to deliver their ceremony speeches in verse–one a funny, self-penned limerick and the other a touching poem incorporating the work of several poets.
Eileen Cleary graduated with a PhD in Human and Organizational Development. This was her speech:
At home in New Jersey, when my friends want to capture the stories of our achievements, they write limericks. So in keeping with that tradition, I’ve written one about my Fielding journey.
There once was a school named Fielding
It’s renowned for adult learning
My application was sent
To NSO I went
I could tell this would not be boring
They said I could become a PhD
I knew that was for me
It expanded my mind
Taught me to be kind
Transformed I will forever be
So many new words were used
Often times I was confused
I learned about ontology
And figured out my epistemology
Now looking back, I am amused
We are all assigned to a mentor
They guide us on this adventure
Connie is truly amazing
Always consciousness raising
And without a doubt my biggest supporter
Our faculty is pretty nifty
Guiding us with pith and whimsy
Thank you for staying by my side
On this awesome ride
Tonight we may get to see them tipsy
Our families and friends are instrumental
Especially when we are going mental
Thank you for the space you gave
I am truly sorry if I misbehaved
You are kind, loving, patient and gentle
My son Aidan’s opinion is well established
His enthusiasm has progressively diminished
He said, “Are you done?
I want to have fun”
I said, “Yes, dear, I am finished”
My journey here has come to an end
I will miss all my lovely friends
It’s sad to part
But they are in my heart
Love and gratitude to you I send
And here I am with hood and tam
I hope tomorrow I have a plan
Thank you one and all
Now let’s go have a ball
As only a true scholar can
Then Yisroel Loeb graduated with a doctorate in Clinical Psychology. With his wife and children in the audience, he delivered this poem called “Gratitude,” composed of his own words, as well as lines from poets like Yehuda Amichai and Lucille Clifton.
I wasn’t one of the 6 million massacred in the Holocaust.
I wasn’t even one of the survivors.
I wasn’t one of the 600,000 men between the ages of 20 and 60
Who scrambled out of Egypt.
I did not spend even a moment on the torture wheels of the Spanish Inquisition.
No, I was not counted in those numbers.
I was formed in this land
Where my roads have been paved with promise and privilege
With stories of summers at the lake and driving to the Catskills
Yet the centuries of fire and smoke,
Tickle my nostrils
Pushing and pulling me
By night and by day.
I still have within me
A mad search
To live in excellence.
My greatest fear is for my voice to rot
Well before my body.
I still have within me the lust to search
For the fountain of hope and healing.
I promise if I find it
I will talk with quiet words – as commanded
Or with frenzied blows
Damn the consequences.
In my mind, I have paused by the school where I studied as a boy
And said in my heart: my childhood has wandered into the darkness
And my lungs prepare for an ashen future
But in this moment,
On this stage,
Is the culmination of my voice
Preparing to live long after the rotting of my flesh.
For that I owe nothing but gratitude and a pledge of fealty.
All these years there was only one set of footprints in the sand
Deepened by all those who from time to time let me rest my weary feet and carried me.
My true partner
In everything I aspire
Celebrate with me
What we have shaped
Stand on this stage with me
And revel in how we have risen above the toil of living.
I carry this message into the future,
I place this blessed burden
Of accepting nothing but your best
Nothing less than excellence
For look around you
You have never spent and will never spend
A moment of your lives
Where there was nor will be two sets of footprints.