Monday, May 14, 2012

It Matters! (Jeffrey Katzer Professor of the Year Award speech)

Photo courtesy of J.D. Ross, (c) 2012.
On Saturday, graduating library & information science student Sylvie Merlier-Rowen presented me with the Jeffrey Katzer Professor of the Year Award.  Established in honor of former Professor and Interim Dean Jeffrey Katzer, this award recognizes a full-time faculty member for outstanding teaching, advising and service.  This year, the recipient (me) was selected by iSchool graduate students.

I was thrilled, shocked and humbled when I heard that I had been selected, especially since it also meant that I would have the opportunity to speak at the iSchool's Convocation, which honors all of its graduating students.  What could I say that would be appropriate and memorable in three minutes?  Below is my written text and yes I did deviate from the text in a few spots, including the addition of a little audience participation ("repeat after me...").

Since the Convocation, I have been heartened by the number of people - including students, parents and grandparents - who have commented on the speech, including people that I had not met before.  Clearly it resonated and I hope it is remembered.

Addendum (5/18/2012): Diane Stirling wrote a blog post about my speech.  If you're curious, you can read it here.

I want to thank all of the graduate students for this award. It has been an honor to stand before you in the classroom and to help prepare you to be leaders in the information profession.

I have been allotted three minutes in order to impart some words of wisdom. I have been wondering what I can say in three minutes that will be important and memorable.

In three minutes?!

Well...this is it…

It all matters! Every class you took – even the ones that you didn’t like –…every assignment that you did, every ah-ha and oh-no, every late night and every early morning.

All of it. It matters.

You will argue, of course, that some of what you did here didn’t matter. You can likely think about something that you did that didn’t seem to make a difference in your life. To that, I would add the word “yet”. It hasn’t made a difference in your life yet.

The full impact of what you have done here at Syracuse and what you have learned in your classes is not immediately apparent. In fact, the importance of some things you have learned may not become apparent until you have become a seasoned professional.

Remember that we were not trying to prepare you for your first day of work, but for your career. Thus some of the lessons you have learned will not become apparent until the time is right.

I have stood in your shoes. Wondered why. And then seen the fruits of my academic efforts come…in…due…time.

And that brings me to a second message for you.

Everything you will do from this day forward also matters. You will make a difference in the world, both in large and small ways. You will connect people and organizations with the information that they need. You will develop new tools and technologies. You will help us finally eliminate the digital divide. You will even help your parents understand how to use their mobile devices!

What you will do – with all that you have learned here – will matter. And we will all be proud of you!

Thank you.

1 comment:

Leo Stezano said...


Congratulations on the award! I wish I'd been there to listen to your speech and partake of all the other joys of commencement, but these are the treadeoffs inherent in distance education.