University of Delaware
Michael Castle: "The people in your life are always the most important thing."

Commencement 2011

Castle urges UD graduates to work together for greater good


5:53 p.m., May 28, 2011--On a morning that began with dark clouds and ended with brilliant sunshine, some 23,000 families, friends and graduates filled Delaware Stadium on Saturday, May 28, to celebrate the Class of 2011 during the 162nd Commencement of the University of Delaware.

--For a selection of photographs from Commencement weekend, see UD in Photos. Even more photos are available and copies can be purchased at Also, a podcast of Saturday's ceremony is available.--

Campus Stories

From graduates, faculty

As it neared time for the processional to open the University of Delaware Commencement ceremonies, graduating students and faculty members shared their feelings about what the event means to them.

Doctoral hooding

It was a day of triumph, cheers and collective relief as more than 160 students from 21 nations participated in the University of Delaware's Doctoral Hooding Convocation held Friday morning on The Green.

Michael N. Castle, one of the most respected political leaders in the state’s history, who earlier in the ceremony received an honorary degree, was the keynote speaker and urged graduates to build on personal relationships and take a keen interest in what is going on across America and around the world.

The best way to achieve this goal, Castle said, is strengthening relationships in the family, the workplace and the larger community. 

“As you look around you today, you are most likely surrounded by the people in your life who matter the most -- your parents, grandparents, siblings, friends and teammates,” Castle said. “This is what I want you to hold on to. They are the basis of friendship and love, and also for success at work, in activities and in your community.” 

Castle began his talk on a light note by saying that he would strive for brevity, but not in the manner of another recent Commencement speaker in a neighboring state.

“I heard a saying, ‘Be provocative, and if you can’t, be profound. If you can’t be either, be brief,'” Castle said. “I will be brief, but not as brief as Jersey Shore star Snooki, who got $32,000 to tell the graduates of Rutgers University to study hard but party harder.”

In reminding the newest Blue Hens that their hard-earned UD degree will serve them well in many ways, Castle also noted that life can be unpredictable and that nothing can be taken for granted.

“Life is going to throw you curveballs, like a one-point defeat in a national championship game or a loss in a U.S. Senate race,” Castle said. “Even if you work hard, sweat blood and tears, go until your tank is empty, you can’t always get what you want.”

Despite the possibility of setbacks, Castle said that the foundation of a good education supported by enduring personal relations can help surmount such difficulties.

“You will not be able to predict these curveballs, and you won't expect them, but you will rebound,” Castle said. “Why? Because of the personal resolve you have, which has culminated in your graduation today, and because of the personal relationships you have developed in your life.”

Besides being the basis of friendship and love, these relationships also are crucial to achieving career success and giving back to the community, Castle said.

“It is not money, not prestige or your job, but it is because of your relationships,” Castle said. “The people in your life are always the most important thing.”

Castle said that this feeling was evidenced in a scene from the movie The Bucket List, starring Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson, two men on a road trip with a list of things they want to do before they die. 

During the scene, it was noted that the ancient Egyptians held the belief that for departed souls to get into heaven they had to successfully answer two questions: 

  • Have you found joy in your life, and 
  • Has your life brought joy to others? 

“I encourage you to reflect on these questions throughout the stages of your life,” Castle said. “If the answers are yes, keep charging ahead. If not, stop, take a deep breath, reflect, and make a change. If you remember nothing else of what I said, please remember that.”

President Harker addresses Class of 2011

In welcoming the Class of 2011 and their families and friends, UD President Patrick Harker noted that success in a changing international marketplace of ideas and services will require the development of global citizenship. 

“I’m going to ask you to do something to honor your love for this University, its mission and its ideals,” Harker said. “I want you to become the global citizens we have prepared you to be.” 

Harker said that those graduating must learn to understand different cultures and traditions, and to put the world in the context of its connections and how countries and their people relate to one another. 

“Our world view is just that—it’s ours,” Harker said. “Other people think different things. They believe different things. They cherish different things.”

A UD education, Harker said, is the result of support by parents, professors, mentors, advisers and students from years past, as represented by the alumni delegates who marched earlier in the Commencement ceremony.

“Now you have an opportunity to honor your parents and your professors and your fellow Blue Hens, to use the precious gift they’ve given you in pursuit of awareness, understanding and engagement,” Harker said. “I hope you do. Thanks and congratulations.” 

Gift of the Senior Class

Seniors Dan Gerber and Erica Cohen announced that members of the Class of 2011 contributed more than $9,700 for the Senior Class Gift, which will be used to support 108 different areas around the campus.  

Reflections from the Class of 2011

Waiting to enter Delaware Stadium, several graduates shared their experiences at UD and their plans for the future.

Malcolm White, a communication major from Baltimore, said getting ready to graduate made him both nervous and happy. “I think the best thing about my time at UD has been the people I’ve met. I’ve been helped by many people.”

Brandon Parris, an applied nutrition major from Newark, Del., said that it felt good to be graduating and that it also was a relief to have completed his studies. “This represents four years of hard work. Now, I’m ready for the next chapter.” Parris said he hope to continue his studies by earning a nursing degree and eventually becoming a physician assistant.

Alina Wade, an applied nutrition major from Newark, said, “I feel ecstatic. I’ve enjoyed being with my friends and hanging out and getting to know everyone. I already have a fulltime job as a health and fitness specialist. I’d like to thank my mom and dad and my family and my boyfriend, Mike.”

Lisette Ffolkes, a fashion major from Brooklyn, N.Y., said that “while it’s great to be graduating, I’m going to miss all the long nights in the sewing lab with all of my friends.” Ffolkes, who plans to return to Brooklyn and work at a bridal store, said she would like to thank her mom and dad and her fashion major family for their encouragement and support. 

Polly Win, an environmental engineering major from New York City, said, “I finally made it. What I enjoyed most was being with the other students in my class. It was a small group, and that was nice.” 

Da-wei Huang, a computer science major from Taipei, Taiwan, said he enjoyed the experience of coming to Newark and UD. “I’d like to find a job here and to experience a different life here. I also want to thank my parents and friends. We studied together and helped each other.

Kayley Conti, a communication major from Massapequa, N.Y., said “I’m happy to be graduating and very excited for the future.”

Commencement resources

Commencement podcast

UD in Photos

Honorary degrees

President Harker's remarks

Mother, daughter graduate

Boomer's global reach

High grade point index seniors

Commencement factoids

Doctoral hooding

Honors Program

Commencement tweets

Article by Jerry Rhodes

Photos by Kathy F. Atkinson, Ambre Alexander, Doug Baker, Mike Baker, Mark Campbell, Evan Krape, Duane Perry and Kevin Quinlan

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