Midyear Graduate Recognition Ceremony

December 13, 2023
President Robert W. Iuliano
Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

As Delivered.

Greetings and Opening Comments

Welcome families, friends, and fellow Gettysburgians. We are here this evening to celebrate a remarkable group of seniors and all that they have achieved as members of this community.

To our graduates, let me extend to you a warm welcome and a hearty congratulations on this special day in your lives.

We are honored to have 17 graduates walk across the stage tonight.

Students who have authored a Gettysburg story that is uniquely their own; who have dedicated themselves to excellence and experienced firsthand the joys of collaboration and hard work; and who have persevered and succeeded in the face unforeseen challenges—all to arrive here, in this moment.

Graduates, you have earned this moment. We are so proud of you!

Of course, as is true for so many of the milestones in our lives, we don’t reach them alone. It is only through the love and encouragement of those around us that we can truly realize our fullest potential.

In that spirit of gratitude, graduates, will you please stand?

At this time, I’d invite you to turn to your parents, as well as your family, friends, and loved ones in attendance tonight. Please join me in extending to them our deepest thanks for their support.

Parents and loved ones, thank you for entrusting us with your student over these past few years and helping to shape a person who has in turned helped to shape this community. Thank you!

Seniors, tonight is a chance to look back and to think ahead. To reflect on this incredible journey to graduation and what it means for your future.

Your first steps on this journey were as wobbly as they were resolute—a hopeful child, making your way across the living room floor with each teetering stride toward your parents’ outstretched arms, and into what can only be described as an ecstatic embrace. You most certainly do not remember it, but your parents do, and these first steps will forever be among their most cherished memories.

And you will soon take another consequential set of steps, across this stage to become a proud Gettysburg graduate—processing alongside the very people who shared in this journey with you: your classmates, your teammates, your friends.

Graduates, you have taken tens of millions of steps to be here, and yet, if you look around, this much is clear: our lives are not a solo expedition. We need one another, every step of the way.

This truth was on vivid display just two days ago.

On Monday, our campus community celebrated another graduation of sorts. We hosted a retirement party for our dear friend and colleague, Jeffrey Gabel. The ceremony was held right across the street at The Atrium and was filled with Gettysburgians from across the generations.

For those of you who don’t know Jeffrey, he has served as the Founding Executive Director of our Majestic Theater for 20 years—and he is responsible for transforming the Majestic into one of the most beloved small-town theaters in America.

Jeffrey has spent more than four decades in the entertainment business, including as an executive at PBS, where he contributed to iconic television shows like Barney, Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego, and of course, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood—where he became lifelong friends with Fred Rogers and served in a recurring role on screen.

During our celebration of his retirement, it would have been easy to focus on Jeffrey’s many professional accomplishments. But here’s the thing: when it came time to hear from his closest Gettysburg friends and colleagues, that’s not what happened.

In reflecting on Jeffrey’s journey—the tens of millions of steps he took to that special moment—very few noted his accolades. Even fewer spoke of his title, his job, or even his distinguished career.

Instead, most everyone spoke about Jeffrey. Just Jeffrey.

The man he is, the path he’s traveled, and how he’s helped so many other people find their own way. In short, they spoke to the consequential life Jeffrey has lived in service to others and to a world that needs more people like him.

Graduates, your path to today is a triumph.

I hope you feel tremendous pride for all that you have accomplished as members of this remarkable academic community. You have earned a degree from one of the finest liberal arts and sciences colleges in the nation. It is most certainly cause for celebration. 

But, like Jeffrey before you, I hope you likewise celebrate the people who walked alongside you.

The people who cheered for you every step of the way.

The people who love you for you.

Because no matter your next step, no matter where you go from here or what you accomplish in your career, remember the people who surround us are what make the journey worthwhile, and the people who love us will forever be our greatest destination.

Again, on behalf of our entire community, we wish you the very best and look forward to hearing about the amazing journey you will chart in the years to come.


The Charge

At Gettysburg College, we promise every student a personal education—and seeing each of you cross the stage tonight, it is clear just how personal this experience has been for you.

In reflecting on Professor Odle-Dusseau’s poignant message this evening, I am reminded of the words of Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu.

He observed, and I quote, “A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.”

Graduates, my charge to you tonight is to heed Professor Odle-Dusseau’s advice to embrace life’s unexpected twists and turns, and with it, the opportunity for growth, for discovery, and for making a positive impact on the lives of others.

Graduates, this is your time. Take all that you’ve learned here and go forth to Do Great Work out in the world. 

We believe in you—and we always will.

Now, to conclude our ceremony, I would invite our families, friends, and entire community here this evening to please join me in congratulating our newest Gettysburg College graduates!