Vassar College

Convocation Remarks, Mat Leonard, V.S.A. President-elect

Mat Leonard
President-elect, Vassar Student Association 

Thank you, Caly. Thank you President Hill.

I am honored to stand before you today as the new president of the VSA and I would like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak at this time-honored tradition. As you all know, we are here today to celebrate Convocation. This day marks the official end of the academic year; which to the confusion of freshmen has nothing to do with classes ending. Today, the class of 2011 officially becomes seniors. Today, the class of 2010 officially joins Vassar’s second and far larger family—the alumni association.

The majority of you here today are seniors. After this ceremony, you will officially be alumni, but that doesn’t mean that your role at Vassar is done—far from it. Your voice as alumni has the potential to be even more important than it is now; you are about to become a link to the world for the students of Vassar College. So as you move on, beyond this school, don’t forget us. Next year, the Vassar that you know will be changed, hopefully for the better. But what you have come to love about our school will live on, in your memories, in your experiences and in the friends you created here.

This past year has been one of the most difficult in the history of the college. I would like to commend the outgoing VSA Executive Board for their hard work: Aaron, Scott, Brian, Liz, Stephanie and, of course, Caly—you have left me with large boots to fill. This past year has been fraught with difficulties and you have risen above them. Despite the differences that threatened to pull our campus apart, you remained strong and wise leaders. You held us together when things looked grim. We all owe you our gratitude. \

Yet, every class marks a new beginning. Every year, we start again, and every year, we wipe the slate clean. And so as you grudgingly, or maybe some not so grudgingly, prepare to leave, reminiscing about your four years here, a new set of freshmen wait expectantly for fall and for the beginning of their next four years. But even before we start in the fall, the New VSA will already be working hard to accomplish the goals we set for our great college. VP for Student Life Samin Shehab, VP for Operations Ruby Cramer, VP for Academics Laura Riker, VP for Activities Tanay Tatum, and VP for Finance Travis Edwards. I cannot express how excited I am to be working you. In you, we have the foundations for a tremendous year ahead of us.

Now is a time for renewal in our school. Now is the time to set aside our differences and come together as Vassar students. Now is the time to listen and to learn from each other. On the eve of our 150th Anniversary, as more problems loom on the horizon, there has never been a more important time to work together. To the students, I ask that you engage with your government, hold us accountable for our actions, for they are actions that affect each and every one of you. It is time to bring the VSA to the forefront, to open dialogue and become a tangible part of student life. We as students have a lot we would like see at Vassar, and we as the VSA are your voice. I want to see students working with the VSA in unprecedented levels. I want to make the VSA the institution it was meant to be from its inception and one that I will be proud to leave when I walk down this chapel's aisle in my own robes.

To the administration and the faculty, I ask that you continue to listen to us and trust us. We have not been here as long as you, and we are not experts in our fields. However, we have the advantage of fresh and critical vision. We can often spot problems and solutions that go unnoticed by those who have grown accustomed to them. Yet, our limited scope and limited time here often causes us to miss the big picture, something that you can help us find. I am looking forward to working with you this next year; I think we have a lot to learn from each other.

Vassar has the ability to change the world. In a few short weeks, the class of 2010 will be leaving this school and entering what we like to call, the real world. When you enter that new world, I hope that you will take what you have learned here and make us proud. In fact, I don't simply hope - I know you will. In just a short time, the class of 2011 will be joining you and—in just a few months—the class of 2014 will be sitting where you are now. I hope that the Vassar they will inhabit is the best institution it can be, and I hope that the world you create for them is a better place.

Congratulations to the class of 2010. Remember, you will always be welcome here. This is your school, your memories, and your home. But as you leave us, I can only cite the words of a wise man, and wish that your future endeavors be filled with the glory of success, the quiet satisfaction of greater understanding and the joy of a happy life.

Thank you.

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