Dear Biological Sciences and Environmental Sciences Graduates,
Heartiest congratulations to each of you. The annual Biological Sciences commencement celebration over commencement weekend is a hallowed and cherished tradition in our department and a well-deserved tribute to our seniors. Yet we find ourselves in a perilous stretch of time, one where the safety and welfare of our students and their families insists on a changed world (if only temporarily). Despite the great disappointment of not celebrating with you in person this year, you were with us in spirit during the University’s online degree conferral ceremony earlier today and will remain in our hearts and prayers.
You are an accomplished, tenacious and resilient graduating class, one that the department is extremely proud of. You persevered despite unprecedented challenges and trying circumstances to make it to this day. And in doing so, not only have you completed an important chapter in your own history, you have become an ineffaceable part of ours, because through you and in what you will accomplish, we fulfill our mission to advance human and environmental health.
You have successfully completed a rigorous curriculum across the wide spectrum of the life sciences—from cells to organismal systems to ecosystems—and you are now armed with the skillset required to tackle many of the greatest challenges of our times. Not many disciplines will bear upon your century like the life sciences. In this era of personalized medicine, global warming and an increasingly aging population, you have tremendous potential to confront the big questions that directly impact both human health and the environment. When poverty and pollution still persist and spawn even more disease in so many parts of our world, you can make a difference to ease suffering and ensure better living conditions.
None of us could have predicted the uncertainties and challenges we’d face in 2020. I am deeply sorry for the hopelessness you must feel to have the joys and traditions of your final semester taken away from you. But I know that you will use these extraordinary circumstances to learn, grow and flourish. Perhaps some of you may soon discover ways to fight COVID-19, and others might discover new ways to safeguard our world from future pandemics. Society needs life scientists, not only to understand these challenges but, more importantly, to take responsibility for their solutions. As biologists, you hold a privileged position, one of tremendous opportunity, but one that also calls for great responsibility, empathy, humility and moral certitude. And as graduates of the University of Notre Dame, you are ready. From here on, I know you will lead with mind and heart.
To all our parents, thank you for entrusting us with your children for the past four years. We know that an extensive part of their education is the nurturing and guidance they have received from you, and this has been especially true in these past few months. It has been our privilege to teach and mentor your children in our classrooms and laboratories.
Class of 2020, on behalf of our faculty and staff, I wish you success in all your future endeavors—success and happiness in your personal lives, academic success as many of you move on to the next phase of your professional careers, financial success, and success in getting those national championship alumni lottery tickets (Go Irish!). But most of all, our wish for you today is that you will find that inner passion of deep and meaningful purpose that challenges you to become part of the solution and a force for the common good.
We look forward to welcoming you and your families back to campus next year over the Memorial Day weekend, alongside the many students, faculty and staff who work untiringly to celebrate our graduating students each year. Please stay connected—with your classmates, professors, mentors, advisors and the Notre Dame family. This is a community to which you will always belong. Biological Sciences is your home department, today and forever.
Congratulations, 2020 Graduates. May God hold you in the palm of his hand and grant you clarity of purpose as you step into your destiny.
Morris Pollard Professor & Department Chair