Churchill: Liberal arts graduates are problem-solvers of tomorrow

Dr. Gerald W. Gibson

We are an old college.
You who are graduating stand in a long line.
You join a great throng of alumni,
men and women scattered across the world,
men and women whose memories of Maryville College
include their own professors and friends,
their own happiness and heartaches,
their own successes and shortcomings,
the lessons that they learned,
the values that they came to embrace,
their unique, personal epiphanies.

We are an old college.
We know who we are.
We have taken on the job of education,
of preparing citizens and leaders,
generation after generation,
since the long-ago time of Isaac Anderson.
Ours is the business of transformation.
If we have done our work well, you leave us transformed,
you graduates of the Class of 2003.

If we have done our work well, you leave us better than you were,
and surer of who you are.
You leave with a greater store of knowledge, yes,
but of even larger import,
with sharper skills of communication and problem-solving;
with enhanced ability to discriminate between
the bad and the good,
the ugly and the beautiful,
the false and the true.

We are a college
created by the church,
a college of faith and learning.
If we have done our work well,
you take your diplomas out into a world that you know
to be God's creation.
You see yourselves as part of that creation,
and as stewards of God's gifts of nature.
You see yourselves as not mere bone and blood and brain,
but as creatures of spirit.
And you see yourselves, too, as brothers and sisters
of people not so like yourselves,
whose names may be hard to pronounce,
whose skins may be lighter or darker than yours,
but whose hearts you now know to be
not so very different from your own.

I charge you, Class of 2003,
to preserve in your hearts
the lessons and epiphanies that have been
the instruments of your transformation
from what you were at the start
to the graduates you are on this commencement day
and to use them
to make the world a better place
for your children and grandchildren
and the Maryville College students who will come after you in the line.

We are a college
that has been home and schoolroom to thousands of students over 184 years.
Yet you—each of you—is unique among its graduates.
You have left your mark on Maryville
as it has left its mark on you.

I charge you to take your Maryville education
and that special combination of gifts and insights and abilities
that is yours alone,
and take on the task of making better
a world that needs all the help you can provide.

May God bless you on your journey.


Maryville College is ideally situated in Maryville, Tenn., between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Knoxville, the state's third largest city. Founded in 1819, it is the 12th oldest institution of higher learning in the South and maintains an affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Known for offering its students a rigorous and highly personal experience that includes an undergraduate research requirement, Maryville College is a nationally ranked institution of higher learning that successfully joins the liberal arts and professional preparation. Total enrollment for the fall 2014 semester is 1,213.