In early May, I had the opportunity to offer my first commencement address. The invitation was extended last fall by Mount Carmel College of Nursing, one of the state's largest nursing colleges and the only institution that I can see from the window of my office in the Huntington Center.
To say that I was honored understates my appreciation for the opportunity. That feeling deepened, however, when I learned this spring that the Board of Trustees had voted to grant me an honorary Doctor of Laws degree as part of the ceremony. The award was made in recognition of my work on behalf of education generally and nonprofit colleges in particular throughout my career.
On May 7, I joined the faculty and trustees of Mt. Carmel in congratulating 162 new baccalaureate degree recipients and thirteen master degree recipients. The ceremony was a family affair, with dozens of small children supporting their moms and dads as who earned degrees, as well as the hundreds of parents and siblings of traditional-age students.
In my address, I talked about how, unlike my work as a lawyer and others like farming, acting, building, or fighting, nursing is a young profession and one that is rapidly evolving. What was once a subsidiary role to doctors now has independence far greater than most long-tenured nurses in the audience might have imagined when they entered the profession. I then noted that the profession again will evolve over their careers, and will likely be very different when they themselves retire decades from now.
I encouraged the graduates to give back through service; to continually seek to learn more in all facets of their lives; to never assume that their path is set or that their options are limited; to take on new challenges; and to lead or support those who do.
The speech also presented a unique opportunity to me as well: one of the graduating nurses was a young woman of my long acquaintance. In closing the address, I offered my personal congratulations to Laura Eckl, one of the new bachelor's degree recipients.
After my address, I was presented with my honorary degree and its accompanying academic regalia, pictured at right.
The day will always be special to me, both as an opportunity to congratulate the new graduates, but also as the day I was blessed to receive an honorary doctorate. My personal thanks to the Board of Trustees, the faculty of Mt. Carmel College of Nursing, and especially to Mt. Carmel President Dr. Ann Schiele, whose support for me as association president is unending, and who encouraged her board to offer me the chance to speak and to be individually honored.
—C. Todd Jones