Prof. Tracy Gardner's Convocation ADDress
I may seem a little nervous, but don’t read too much into that…it’s only because I am! Well, it’s partly that, and partly that I am very excited. Standing here today, to offer a faculty perspective to the newest group of eager young Mines Freshmen, is for me a huge dream come true. It is the culmination of a series of challenges; some of which lead to successes, and others…not so much. What have I done in my various roles from student to faculty? As a student, I failed some exams. I cried in front of professors. I learned I can’t dance, or sing very well (but I still do it anyway!). At one point in grad school I even considered fleeing to Portland (Oregon…Maine…I didn’t really care which)! But ultimately, I earned 3 degrees here…and another “somewhere nearby”. I fell in love with another Mines alum, and even got married right here on campus! I learned more about zeolite membranes than anyone should ever know. I got to live for 2 years in the Netherlands doing postdoctoral research and teaching. I now have two beautiful daughters and a very happy life! And I have the honor of living my dream – helping to educate you next generations of brilliant Mines engineers. I tell you of these experiences to give you some context, let you know the faculty understand where you are and where you can go, and to let you know we want to help in any way we can to get you there.
So in that role as an educator, I like to start with a question…who
among you has ever thought about joining the circus? You laugh! Maybe
you don’t see the parallels between the circus and the Colorado School
of Mines? I’ll give you a few. Sometimes while you’re here, you will
be a clown – you’ll be amazed to find how hilarious you can be when
you’re up studying until 2:30 in the morning! You will learn to tame
lions; for instance, when your roommate is having a particularly
bad day or your own inner wild cat begins to roar. You will be a
trapeze artist, letting go of something comfortable and safe and trusting
someone to catch you on the other side, or being the one responsible to
catch someone else. But the main parallel between a circus and Mines (or
life in general!) is the need to find balance in all that you do: support
vs. independence, studying vs. playing, easier paths vs. challenges.
I encourage you to let go of any need you feel for perfection. To
excel, you should be bold, original, and not too risk averse! As
I believe in practicing what I preach, I’ll take a chance of my own, and
expand on these ideas following the lead (in different ways) of a few
influential people in my life – my father, for one, and Drs. Barbara Bath
– a mentor from my student time here and now a lifelong friend, John Falconer
– one of my Ph.D. advisors and also a lifelong friend, and Seuss
– never met him but fully admire him all the same.
To the 2011 Colorado School of Mines Incoming Freshmen
You are used to being at the top of the heap;
you climbed and you’ve clumb and you took a big leap.
You arrived here at Mines, you unpacked your car;
Ikea furniture in place, now here you are.
You’re eager to learn, to grow, and to see;
all the things that are, and all those that can be.
What can you do that you haven’t before?
Who can you be, who will build…and do more?
You can be nearly anything – as trite as that sounds;
I believe it, I do, and these are my grounds…
With the tools of “sight”, “reason”, and “love”,
you will have powers to lift you above.
Not above others, as that’s not a good aim;
but above poor behaviors that are sickly and lame.
By knowing what’s right, and following that;
you will lead this world straight, like the man with the cat
(in the hat…in case you missed that).
And I believe we here at CS of M
can give you these tools; teach you how to use them.
The tool of “sight”, is really perspective.
In transport we speak of conductive, convective –
Different ways of moving from here and to there.
You’ll have choices to make, so think and prepare
Yourselves for a future of building what’s needed;
without being rude, obnoxious, conceited.
Hold yourself high, with actions and grace
as beautiful and moving as a sweet child’s face.
With perspective you’ll realize what really counts;
not this much and that much or any amounts
Of things or of honors or even of money…
but people, respect, and finding things funny!
This puts you in charge, lets you be the tamer,
you’re empowered to fix things, unlike the blamer
Who thinks it’s the cat’s fault when he gets scratched up;
“That test was too hard!”, “YOU half-emptied MY cup!”
Ask yourself each day, “Am I happy to do,
all the things that I do as I do what I do?”
And if the answer is “No.”, then ask yourself why?
Is it a transient problem that will go by and by?
If so, then “Press on!”, to quote Calvin Coolidge,
don’t give up cause it’s tough, as that would be foolidge?
But if it goes deeper, decide what to change.
YOU have the power to mold, rearrange
The things in your life that just aren’t going right...
This is the strength of the tool of “sight”.
“Reason” is next in the toolbox kit
I’m saying we’ll offer, and you may find that it
Is easier to see how some silly old profs,
with their chalk and their markers and their silly old coughs,
Can offer this tool to your hungry young minds –
as one seeks after all, one often finds –
That reason is mostly the ability to know…
if this tips that way, which way will these go?
Or is it more than only just knowing;
how the world turns, how the trees do their growing?
I’d argue that reason is “muchly, much” more!
It’s realizing that every seeming “locked door”
Is simply a problem wanting a solution;
like medicine for illness, catalysts for pollution.
So go make a key and unlock that door,
and so what if no one thought of THAT key before?
Reason will tell you that that’s why you are here,
to be YOURSELF AND a great engineer!
Like the trapeze artist, reach beyond…take a chance;
join the Ultimate team, ask someone to dance!
Realize sometimes it won’t feel like success;
you’ll bomb some exam, you’ll think you’re a mess…
But failing can even be better for you,
as you’ll find you learn so much more when you do.
So rather than simply gathering facts,
use your “reason” to turn them into great acts.
If you’re one of those who hasn’t had strife…
You’ve “sailed through high school and all challenges in life!”
Then you need to listen even closer than those
who have already struggled, who already chose
To take the hard path and work the right way…
the result was worth it at the end of the day.
How does “love” fit in to the balancing act?
Listen up here my friends, as this is a fact:
Of course you will need to learn and to study,
but as vital as that, find yourself a good buddy –
A friend to listen, to laugh at your jokes;
(though not at your failures, like some other folks)
To help you be active, creative, and happy;
to lift you up when you’re feeling cr…ummy
And even better than finding that “guy”;
BE that for someone, help THEM to fly.
This “love” tool allows you to step out and see,
“What’s helped me to get here OTHER than me?”
And realizing the answer to that is “A BUNCH!”;
of “love”, and good fortune, and I have a hunch
Of a million other things that have helped you to be,
sitting where you are…full of hope, full of glee.
Just remember that help you’ve had on your way,
and think of how you can pay it forward each day.
Whatever you do I’m convinced you will learn,
that by giving back you’ll receive more in return.
I did what I preach, I went out on a limb,
and I read you this poem I wrote on a whim
To try to convey what I hope you will see,
are some things worth getting…things one, two, and three.
Thing one is that “seeing” with well-focused “eyes”,
can help your happiness biggify in size.
Learning who, what, and how are important, that’s true;
but even more, apply “reason”…that is thing two.
Thing three – “Love” and appreciate friends, gifts, and talents;
and in everything in life, find the right balance.
Now I will close with “Welcome new friends!”
Did I fail or succeed? Well that all depends...
To ME this passed by in what seemed like a blink,
but did you get something from it? What do YOU think?