DU Confers 1,090 Graduate Degrees in Spring Ceremony
Keynote urges grads to serve others
With all eyes on the capped and gowned students below, University of Denver Chancellor Rebecca Chopp urged the University’s new graduates to stand, turn and reciprocate the attention. Sitting in the crowd, she said, are the people who made your presence at this ceremony possible.
“This is your day, too,” Chopp said to the friends, family members, faculty and staff filling the seats at Magness Arena. “You have sacrificed in many different ways in anticipation of this day and you deserve to be proud, not just of those sitting up front, but of yourselves.”
Consider it a final lesson from the institution that conferred 1,090 graduate degrees in its Spring 2018 ceremony. Keynote speaker Carol Tomé (MBA ’81) took the message a step further. “Your life is not about you,” said Tomé, Home Depot’s chief financial officer. “It is about everybody else.”
In a brief, energetic address, Tomé took students through her successful career. In her rise to the top, she triumphed so frequently that proclaimed herself “the deal queen.” Along the way, she often worked long hours, seven days a week.
But despite her accolades and accomplishments, she looked at herself in the mirror one morning and everything changed.
“I asked myself a question,” she recalled. “‘Carol, what will your tombstone read?’ I immediately responded, ‘she worked hard.’ And then I was horrified. That can’t be my purpose.
“So I asked myself another question, and this time it was, ‘Carol, what do you want your tombstone to read?’ I thought long and hard about that question and answered: ‘She made a difference in my life.’”
The experience, she said, transformed the way she interacted with colleagues, family, friends and God. It is not too early, Tomé urged, for her audience to think about their own tombstones.
“If you declare your purpose,” she said, “it will change your life. Living a full life is about serving others, not yourself.
“The most important decision of your life is whom you decide to share your life with,” Tomé added. “Building a life with someone who loves you, and you love, guarantees a life of reward interrupted by moments of pure delight.”
Before delivering her remarks, Tomé received an honorary doctor of business degree from the chancellor, who also bestowed an honorary doctor of higher education degree upon Clara Villarosa.
Villarosa, an alumna of the Graduate School of Social Work and the Sturm College of Law, is known for her work as an author, businesswoman and motivational speaker. Her Hue-Man Experience Bookstore, first opened in Denver and later in Harlem, was the largest and one of the most prominent African-American bookstores in the country.
In 21 years of service on the DU Board of Trustees, Villarosa provided financial and budgetary expertise, while creating a more inclusive campus, Chopp said, adding, “It is my, honor to recognize Clara’s lifetime commitment to amplifying the voices of others.”
In her closing remarks, Chopp urged the newest graduates to do the same.
“We need your skills, your compassion, your leadership and your imagination,” she said. “I charge you to be leaders who listen deeply to others, live with a moral heart and imagine new possibilities.
“May you fulfill your dreams and hopes,” she concluded, “and may that fulfillment benefit, nourish and strengthen our world.”