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Keystone College Master’s Hooding Ceremony 2018

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 scholarly excellence, perseverance, hope in the future, and a commitment to life-long learning.

It is hard work to pursue Graduate studies, and it is an honor to be here today with you who have sacrificed so much to get to this point. None of you arrived at this place and time alone; you have received the support and encouragement of others. In gratitude for their support and for your efforts, tonight’s ceremony reminds us of our connections and the importance of our commitments and choices.

This is the time of the year when we celebrate milestones, and cards and gifts are often accompanied by festive balloons or ribbons as symbols of inclusion, community, and joy. The undergraduates at Keystone College recently hosted our annual Relay for Life, and the multi-colored ribbons to promote cancer awareness were a prominent feature of what many walkers sported. Ribbons often signal something that festive and important is about to happen. People from different cultures around the world use ribbons in their hair, around the body, and as ornamentation on buildings and of course, packaging. Who doesn’t love a present with ribbon or a bow on it?

Ribbon-weaving is known to have occurred near St. Etienne (St. Stephen) in eastern central France as early as the 11th century. Over the next 7 centuries, the craft spread to Germany and England and eventually to North America, which today remains the largest importer of ribbon, with markets continuing to grow in Asia and South America.

One kind of ribbon that has come to symbolize high quality is the blue ribbon. Originally donning knights of distinction who wore a blue “riband” on their armor, the symbol of prestige transferred in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as an accolade to the passenger liner crossing the Atlantic Ocean in regular service with the highest speed. More recently, in the United States, the blue ribbon represents first place in horse racing as well as other athletic or competitive activities, such as county or state fairs. And the term is sometimes applied to a distinguished group or commission that has been convened to address a particular situation or solve a problem as a blue ribbon panel or commission.

Tonight, I would like to extend to each of you a blue ribbon for completing the race, the marathon called Graduate School. I think it is interesting that those in the Academy generally eschew fanfare or grandeur in the implicit conviction that the life of the mind should be externally Spartan, but internally deep and colorful. However, on celebration days such as today, the community of scholars turns itself inside out and we wear clothes in an uncharacteristic external grandeur, celebrating the culmination of all of your efforts over long days, nights, and years. These hoods are fundamentally cloth ribbons celebrating your accomplishments 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, e.g., University of Bologna (1088) and the University of Oxford (1096), the dress of a scholastic or master was comparable to that of a cleric, and the outer binding of the hood represented the field of study in which the graduate was qualified to teach.

Graduates of Keystone College, you have earned a Master’s degree. I know that my hopes for you are as high as 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, patient, servant leaders. And whether you make a difference in education, medicine, business, law, politics, the not-for-profit world, or in culture and the arts, you are now blue ribbon winners.

I hope that you will remain connected to your teachers and peers from your time here. I hope that you will return to this, your College, often so that we can celebrate together the many accomplishments that surely await you. I look forward to sharing with others the greatness of the contributions each of you will make in your time and in society. And the greatest gifts you can offer are compassion and encouragement. In short, be those who freely give blue ribbons of love to your family, friends, and community.

See in your hoods not fanciful apparel or a frivolous costume. Rather, your hoods received this evening are expressions of our ribbons of hope for you.  To borrow from the sentiments in a 1982 song by Stevie Wonder, “Ribbon in the Sky,” There’s a ribbon in the sky and in our hearts that symbolize our love and hope for you.

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.