(The following are remarks from President Susan A. Cole at the 2014 Commencement ceremony.)
Montclair State University was founded in 1908, and for the past 106 years, this institution has made available the possibility of a superb education to students who have demonstrated the potential for high achievement, who have shown diligence in the pursuit of their education, and who have high aspirations for using their education to the benefit of society.
There were 45 students in the first graduating class. A half century ago, in 1964, there were 561 graduates, and we are joined in our celebration today by 20 of those graduates who are marking their 50th graduation anniversary. I would like to ask the members of the class of 1964 to stand and be recognized. At today’s ceremony we will be conferring degrees on a few more people than we did half a century ago. Today we confer 4,382 degrees – the largest class of graduates in the University’s history.
All told, in its first 106 years, Montclair State has granted 132,785 degrees. The vast majority of those students have been the first in their families to earn a college degree, and we have sent them out into the world, just as we are today sending all of you out into the world, to work hard, to pursue advanced study, and to have distinguished careers in medicine and the health professions, in science, law, business, the arts, and education.
Standing in the early years of the University’s second century, we can see clearly that everything is now and always has been about possibilities: the possibilities represented by you – the possibilities of the science you will do, the businesses you will create, the children you will teach, and the music you will make, and the possibilities of the hundreds of thousands of students who will follow in your footsteps over the years to come. And this journey is now and always has been about expectations: the expectations that your families have had for you, that we have had for you, and the expectations that you will now have for yourselves. Just imagine the impact you could have on the state, the nation, and the world.
Public higher education and institutions such as Montclair State University are the critical enablers of American democracy. There cannot be a free society or a just society or a prosperous society where that society does not provide for the education of its people. The role of a responsible and contributing citizen in a democracy is a difficult and complex one, and it takes preparation and education. You have had the privilege of that education – a privilege denied to many in this world – and you, and your families, and we in this university, have worked hard to make that privilege possible for you. And now, you must let nothing stand between you and your future, for we will be expecting to find each and every one of you in the years to come in all those places where well-educated and dedicated people are working toward the progress of society and the wellbeing of people.