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Keystone College Master’s Hooding Ceremony 2017

Good evening! I am delighted to be with you for this special and personal ceremony, which recognizes your extraordinary effort and achievement required to earn a Graduate degree from Keystone College. Your presence here today is proof of genuine scholarly excellence, perseverance, hope in the future, and a commitment to life-long learning.

According to the latest census data, only 6% of Americans have earned a master’s degree—and for good reason. It is a sacrifice to pursue Graduate work and it is an honor to be here today with you who have sacrificed so much to get to this point. I am joined by the faculty in how impressed we have been by you. None of us arrived to this place and time alone. All of us have received the support and encouragement of someone close. In gratitude for their efforts and for yours, tonight’s ceremony reminds us of the closeness of our connections and the importance of our commitments and choices.

One of your choices for tonight was deciding what clothes to wear in light of the event and weather. We are all wearing clothes of another’s making tonight. Only a few generations ago, people made their own clothes, and in fact, my great grandmother did make and mend clothes, curtains, and quilts as a regular pastime. The primary function of clothes was practical to protect us from climatic conditions, promote mores of modesty, and later to mark one’s social rank. Today, clothes are a way to code-communicate one’s individuality and diversity, although, ironically, the corporate fashion industry as it is currently promoted, tends to affirm conformity.

The importance of clothes transcends cultures, time, and geographies. Whether we are talking about the present or Colonial times, what we wear on our bodies has meaning. Our clothes give clues about who we are as individuals as well as a society. Indeed, some anthropologists refer to clothes as our “social skin” and have noted that children in the Victorian times, for example, wore adult clothes signifying that they were immature adults since the standard was the adult (Aries, 1962, Centuries of Childhood). Perhaps some of you remember in the 1980s when it seemed to be more important what brand name was on the jeans instead of the person in them.

I think it is interesting that academics generally eschew fanfare or grandeur in the implicit conviction that the life of the mind should be externally Spartan, but internally deep and colorful. But on graduation days, the community of scholars turns themselves inside out and wears clothes in an uncharacteristic external splendor, celebrating the culmination of all of your efforts over days, long nights, and years that have led you to this magnificent milestone in your lives.

The origins of academic regalia are obscured by history, but when the earliest universities were being formed, [cp. University of Karueein (859), University of Bologna (1088), University of Oxford (1096), University of Cambridge (1209), University of Padua (1222), and the University of Siena (1240)], the dress of a scholastic or master was comparable to that of a cleric. The master’s gown had sleeves with a slit to allow the arm to emerge at the elbow of the gown and the outer binding of the hood represented the field of study in which the graduate was qualified to teach. Frequently, at ceremonies of import, graduates were encouraged to “put on . . . heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. . . . And over all these things, clothe yourself in love. . . . (Colossians 3: 12-14) These qualities were considered intellectual and ethical virtues, full of promise and possibility.

And so…graduates of Keystone College, you have earned a Master’s degree. I know that my hopes for you are no higher than those you have for yourselves. I wish you all the best in attaining your goals and dreams.  As graduates of this institution, you are ready to take your place as compassionate, kind, humble, gentle, patient, and loving leaders.

And whether you make a difference in education, medicine, business, law, serving the common good, the not-for-profit world, or in culture and the arts, you are now cream of the crop educational clothiers. I hope that you will continue to make clothes for others as so many have done for us. I hope that you will remain connected to your teachers and peers from your time here. I hope that you will return to campus often so that we can celebrate together the many accomplishments and milestones that surely await you. I look forward to sharing with others the greatness of the contributions each of you will make in our time and in society.

Now you know what clothes to wear because the clothes of heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, and love are not fanciful costumes or frivolous costumes. Rather, your hoods received this evening are small expressions of our hopes for you that we personally know are founded in the humility and perseverance it takes to earn a master’s degree, the patience and faith to be an excellent teacher, the enduring love and compassion it takes to be a parent or friend, and the “progress through effort” (our College’s motto) that it takes to clothe those who are shivering in the cold of confusion or concern, looking for your mantle of hope and wisdom.

Please let me extend once again my best wishes for the journey that lies ahead and my warmest congratulations to you on your extraordinary achievement!

President David L. Coppola, Ph.D.