During the last week of this month, more than 5,000 UBC students will take an important step in their life's journey. They will receive their degrees, denoting both the completion of a program of study, and the beginning of an exciting new phase of life.
To these students I say "Congratulations." You have earned our praise as your family members, educators, friends and colleagues.
I feel a special kinship with this year's graduating class. My own time at UBC is drawing to a close after 12 years as president. A wonderful phase of my life's journey will end on July 31, 1997, and I share many of the thoughts of our graduating students in both reflecting and looking ahead.
Who were the significant people who touched our lives during our time at UBC? What was it about them that made a difference, helped us learn and work together, opened our minds to new ideas and perspectives, encouraged and challenged us to be creative, and made us better?
We feel a bond and debt of gratitude with those men and women who committed their best efforts to working with us. The lessons we learned and the memories we share are gifts that will last a lifetime.
I think one of the most valuable aspects of education is learning to embrace differing ideas and viewpoints. The first level is respect for other people, disciplines and cultures. But the higher level is enthusiastic openness to new ideas, and integrating them with our own best thinking. This is how we create solutions to problems and develop new knowledge, technologies and opportunities that benefit our world.
My best advice to each graduating student, as you take the next step in your life's journey, is to believe in yourself and the skills you have developed. Your horizons are limited only by your imagination.
Studying physics at the University of Toronto in the 1950s, I could not imagine winding up working with NASA 20 years later, when I served as Chief of the Geophysics Branch, where I was in charge of geophysical experiments on the moon and aspects of the science of moon rocks. Nothing in my undergraduate education prepared me for experiments on the moon (or being president of a major university) - or so I thought. But the reality is that a solid foundation of learning skills, combined with a thirst for knowledge and a desire to achieve, is the best preparation for any career.
Your 1990s UBC education is your launching pad for a wide range of 21st century careers.
Congratulations on completing your degree requirements, and best of luck in your journey.
Tuum Est: It's Yours.
David W. Strangway