This time of year always brings me to a place of deep appreciation marked with a tinge of sadness. I am thankful for the opportunities to have watched students learn and grow during their time at Luther, and since I’ve been here five years, I’ve known these graduating students their entire time at Luther. Enter sadness. While I am cheering on students and wishing them well as they move on to the next stage of their amazing journey, I also know I will miss them greatly.
This is the 24th commencement season I have experienced in my career, and this time of year can still feel like the first time for me. In these days ahead, I feel fully prepared and at the same time totally unready for what is unfolding. I will see students this weekend celebrate the completion of four years of hard work, earning their degrees, and come next week, I may not see them again for some time.
I trust, as parents, that may be a similar feeling to the one you had when you first dropped your student off at college, whether that was four years ago or this past fall. That day-to-day and face-to-face interaction to which you were accustomed was gone in what may have felt like a flash. I know those days are inching closer with each passing year for me as my daughter begins her junior year of high school this fall. Bring on the college search process!
What I wish most for students who are graduating this weekend is that they can look back and know they maximized their time at Luther—they invested well. For each student this will mean something different. How did they best use their time, gifts, talents, and strengths in the community? Are they leaving with a sense of fulfillment and ready for the next challenge? Are they leaving with some doubt about how they will navigate this next stage? Have they learned all they need to know?
Fear not. They have full lives ahead of them, and in this next stage, they can be better prepared to dive in and make sure they fully invest themselves in their new opportunities, communities, and relationships with the perspective that comes from these past four years. Life will continue to provide learning opportunities, and as long as students continue to seek ways to tap into what is being offered, they will continue to be fulfilled. Even if they look back and wish, “I should have . . .,” they can use this experience to inform their new experiences.
Ultimately, the full promise of a Luther education is to prepare students to face what comes next with confidence balanced with humility, guided by an understanding of self and how one’s values will enable them to serve with distinction for the common good.