Keynote Address: The Giver as Gold

Last year, I was able to take a course in Mysticism, taught by Professor Karolyn Kinane in the English Department. I knew virtually nothing about the subject when I started, but it really opened my mind to new ideas, new sources of inspiration. One of them is the great Sufi mystic, Rumi, who once said, “When someone is counting out gold for you, don’t look at your hands, or the gold. Look at the giver.”

Tonight, I look towards all of you, charitable donors, to express my sincere gratitude for all of the support you have given to me, the other students attending tonight, thousands more who are not here, and the entire Plymouth State community.

The other day, I was walking through the center of campus on my way to class. I was carrying a backpack that was heavier than usual, trying to balance my large coffee and stack of books in hand. Unfortunately, for me, it was 11:05 a.m, aka “PSU student rush hour.”

As I swerved around the masses, I couldn’t help but feel a strange sense of community in that moment. Looking around, I saw student organizations setting up tables in front of the Hartman Union Building, anxiously waiting to tell fellow peers about their latest endeavor. I noticed an Admissions tour group, led by several Student Ambassadors who were proudly showing off the campus. I even overheard a student and her professor discussing a research project they were planning to collaborate on throughout the semester.

This is the kind of lively interaction that we may take for granted as part of the college experience. But, anticipating my remarks to you this evening, I saw it in the context of the wider community — including all of you as supporters who make our student lives possible.

I hope you take pride in the many ways that Plymouth State University is well-known for its student achievements, both inside and outside the classroom. Meteorology students have been honored nationally numerous times for their research, while Education students have made Plymouth’s preparation program the envy of New England colleges. Campus-wide, students’ commitment to environmental sustainability has allowed the university to be recognized regionally and globally for their “green” impact. Just recently, the Sierra Club named Plymouth State to its “America’s Greenest Schools” list. Another external source just ranked Plymouth’s students in the top 15% for employability post-graduation. Like many students here, I take pride in belonging to such an institution. And trust me, as a senior, that is especially good news!

Like many students here, I’m proud to belong to such an institution and I’m pleased to see Plymouth State recognized more often for the outstanding quality of education that is taking place here. Yet with national college tuition costs at all-time high, it’s no surprise to find many PSU students struggling to pay for their education. While some families are more financially fortunate, I know of many students who have paid their entire way through school on their own. These students work two, maybe three jobs, in addition to attending class, being involved, and somewhat trying to find time for a social life. The academic work and subsequent success these students, and all Plymouth State students achieve is evident, but what happens behind the scenes often goes unnoticed.

The support students receive surely does not, though, as I know many students would agree with me when I say that we wouldn’t be able to accomplish all that we do without your generous scholarship assistance. From funding a study abroad trip, to lessening the burden on textbook prices, every little bit really does help.

Without your generosity, Plymouth State University would not be where it is today. We wouldn’t have the new facilities that enrich our experience here on campus. We wouldn’t have such talented and devoted faculty members if your gifts didn’t help topay their salaries. We wouldn’t have all the staff who help us with everything outside the classroom— from the PASS office for tutoring assistance, to the Residence Directors in the halls, to the librarians who help us with our research papers, to the coaches who inspire our teams. As I see it, we wouldn’t have PSU as we all know and love it.

As President Steen said, someday I hope to be in your seat and to take my place this at this continuum of giving across the generations. But for now, and especially for tonight, on behalf of myself, other scholarship recipients, and all Plymouth State students, I would like to thank each of you for your generous contributions. In Rumi’s words, I will not look at myself, nor the “gold” I have graciously received. I will look at all of you. Thank you.

Presented at the annual Scholarship Connections dinner at Plymouth State University