May 12, 2024: Commencement 2024, Class Response by Lea Tarzy ’24

Welcome and thank you to all of the family, friends, faculty and staff here today. There is something so meaningful about gathering on this quad, to both end and begin another chapter of our lives in this place that holds so many memories from the past four years.

As my fellow tour guides know, each campus tour culminates here on this quad, where we leave families with our "Why Bucknell?" story. I'm honored to stand here and share mine today, one last time.

As a student-athlete, I found Bucknell during the recruiting process and first visited campus as a freshman in high school. Afterward, my parents and I were talking in the airport about the visit when a man interrupted. He introduced himself as an alum, explaining that he majored in English here before going on to medical school. He spoke so highly of his time at Bucknell, specifically how the tight-knit community and liberal arts education broadened his mind and allowed him to pursue many different interests at once.

I was 15. I had no clue what I wanted to do, much less what college would best help me get there, but the man's words aligned with my first impression of Bucknell. Coaches and professors alike seemed to encourage students to explore and excel in all different areas, and celebrate them at every stage along the way.

That was something I was looking for. In short, I made a decision, stuck with it, and consider myself lucky with how true that initial impression turned out to be.

After arriving for my first year, I met so many impressive and engaged individuals, involved in a seemingly impossible array of activities and academic pursuits. We were greeted by caring and compassionate professors who not only allowed but also encouraged us to do it all.

But this was not without hardship. Entering college, we experienced one of the most significant life transitions at a time when the entire world was in flux: the fall of 2020.

Amid frequent reminders to maintain our social distance, we began building our social networks. We made friends through muffled masks and formed connections that withstood contact tracing and hotel quarantines.

With a first year radically different from our final three, the pandemic brought us closer as a class in many ways. We persisted, and through it became more prepared for all of the unexpected absurdities life may throw our way.

And then, as the pandemic settled down, we settled in. We became comfortable on campus, claiming it as our own and learning of all it has to offer. From milkshakes at 7th Street to sunsets at Turtle Creek, late-night library sessions and memorable life lessons, we made this place our home.

We also learned that Bucknell does not make you choose. Before each tour, the ambassadors introduce themselves, listing the organizations they're involved in — and each time, without fail, I'm astounded. An incredible range of majors, minors, sports, clubs, jobs and research projects — here, being thoroughly well-rounded is not an anomaly but rather the norm.

In true High School Musical fashion, you can be the star player on the team and the star of the musical. You can be a teaching assistant, on the dance team, involved in research and the president of your sorority. For me, hearing those intros each week served as a constant reminder of the collaborative spirit and cooperative nature that characterize this campus.

And yet the true Bucknell experience is something so much greater than what can be captured on a résumé. It's all the little moments of teamwork and unity that present themselves daily — on the field, in the lab or waving to friends while walking through this quad. It's the professor that invites the whole class to their home for dinner, and shows up at 6 a.m. to answer questions before an exam. It's begging your friends to fill out Management 101 surveys, and flocking to the Adirondack chairs at the first sign of a sunny spring day.

We've seen it captioned countless times beneath each other's Instagrams: "the people make the place." But I'd argue that, to an extent, the people in this place have helped make us who we are. Each one of us is different, complex and beautiful, and our interactions have impacted one another in so many ways. We experienced a shining example of this in our classmate, Christian Samay, whose memory we will forever cherish anytime we are "following the sun."

As we leave Bucknell and move beyond, we take the best of each other wherever we go.

This is it. College days have come to a close. We are forever grateful to our administrators, peers, professors and parents for all they've done to get us here. In particular, I'm incredibly grateful to my dad, for his constant love and frequent reminders to focus on what truly matters. And for my mom, my best friend — thank you for being here on your day. Without you, I would not be up on this stage, or even here at this institution.

We, the Class of 2024, have been prepared by the best education has to offer. Yet even the best education falls short of complete preparation for the next chapter. It is now up to us to take all we've acquired and apply it on our own. To take those skills, experiences, connections and life lessons, and bring the best of Bucknell into the world with us all.

Life is about to begin, and we're ready. 'ray Bucknell!