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A Heart Full of Gratitude

“Gratitude is important not only because it helps people feel good, but also because it inspires them to do good. Gratitude heals, energizes, and transforms lives in a myriad of ways consistent with the notion that virtue is both its own reward and produces other rewards.” -Robert Emmons, “Is Gratitude Queen of the Virtues?” 9.18.12

In my last days at Albright I did a lot of reflecting on the past 12 years. I have learned a lot and am pretty sure I am a better college president today than I was when I walked into my office in May 2005. It was a somewhat odd time to begin, just as the academic year was winding down, but I am grateful for the circumstances that made it my first day. For one thing, this campus is beautiful in the spring as the wide variety of flowering plants and trees come to life. I am so grateful for all those whose diligence and vision are reflected in the beauty of the campus.

May is also the celebratory culmination of the school year highlighted by Honors Week and all the joyful rituals that occur in the final week of the spring semester. And then, of course, there’s Commencement itself. Although I had met only a few members of the Class of 2005 by the time I shook their hands and handed them their diplomas, that ritual was (and continued to be) one of the most moving moments in my experience. Briefly, as I look into each graduate’s eyes, I can see their many stories—pride in accomplishment, relief in a long journey completed, anxiety about what comes next, and gratitude to all who have helped them to reach that moment.

On Commencement day, I expect that few graduates can fully know just how valuable their Albright experience will prove to be. As I like to tell them, their liberal arts education has prepared them well—better than they can possibly know—to meet the unpredictable challenges of a constantly changing world. They may wonder what is next, but we know from extensive research and the evidence of our own graduates that their future employers are looking for people who have the skills and habits of mind that they have developed at Albright. They are critical thinkers, communicate effectively, know how to work well with others, and have strong work ethics and a commitment to service and continued learning. These attributes do not go out of style. They cannot be taken away. They are the sturdy infrastructure of a well-ordered mind and prove that a liberal arts education is ultimately the most practical.

There is great cause for gratitude in all of this, especially for all those who diligently provide these tools through gifted teaching, research and advising—our faculty. I recall with special gratitude the great teachers who inspired me when I was an undergraduate and later in graduate school. They made me admire the life of the mind; they made me believe that Socrates was correct: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” I depart with a heart full of gratitude. I hope all of our graduates feel the same.


Lex O. McMillan III, Ph.D.,
President Emeritus