Sunil Gulati to graduates: Find your passion, remember your compassion
May 19, 2013
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LEWISBURG, Pa. — At every bend in the winding, globetrotting path that led Sunil Gulati '81 from Bucknell University to the presidency of the United States Soccer Federation, passion has shown him the way.
Following his education at Bucknell and Columbia University, Gulati deferred plans to join the World Bank to pursue a teaching career at Columbia. He later accepted a position as a World Bank country economist for the European nation Moldova, but left to return to teaching, his true passion. A parallel passion for soccer led him to a second career with Major League Soccer and the USSF.
Speaking at Bucknell University's 163rd Commencement, Gulati encouraged members of the Class of 2013 to find and embrace their passions, no matter the cost.
"If you find over the next five, 10, 20 years that Fridays are joyous because the work week is over, and that's the case every week, it might not be the right job, regardless of the paycheck," he told the graduating class. "We can't stop time, and so it's important, important to do something along the way. Your families know this and they're going to be part of your passion, but that job is another part of it."
Gulati also encouraged the graduates to have compassion in equal measure to passion for their own pursuits.
"Don't look forward to Fridays. Find your passion. Be intolerant to the pain of others," Gulati said in summation. "And on behalf of teachers everywhere, come back and visit us."
Gulati directed his advice to the 919 members of the Class of 2013 and the thousands of faculty, staff, parents and friends gathered on Bucknell's Academic Quad for the Commencement ceremony. Under cloudy skies that threatened rain but did not deliver, the College of Arts and Sciences conferred 732 undergraduate and 26 master's degrees, and the College of Engineering awarded 158 undergraduate and three master's degrees. The Class of 2013 represents 20 nations, 34 states and the District of Columbia.
Following Bucknell tradition, the graduates processed to the Academic Quad through the Christy Mathewson Memorial Gateway, which they passed through at the start of their first year. The 163rd Commencement then opened with a new tradition, as student Mary Oluokun '16 sang "The Star Spangled Banner" a cappella. At previous Commencement ceremonies in recent history, an instrumental ensemble performed the National Anthem.
Following Gulati's reflections on passion and compassion, other speakers touched on power and responsibility.
Student speaker Beth Eanelli extolled the "power of Bucknell" in her Class Response, a power Eanelli tasted much earlier than many of her peers.
Eanelli's grandmother, Josephine Avia, enrolled at Bucknell in 1942, but her time at the University was cut short by World War II. Though her time here was brief, Avia looked back fondly on spring afternoons on the Quad and sunsets over Lewisburg, and related those memories to her granddaughter.
"I always wondered how it was possible, in a person's 89 years, for just one of those years to stand out so much," Eanelli said, with her grandmother among those in the crowd. "In just two semesters, my grandmother experienced the power of being a Bucknellian — something we have had the honor and privilege of experiencing as well."
Eanelli said each member of the Class of 2013 had felt that power at one point or another — in relationships built with professors, all-night cram sessions at Bertrand Library or weekends unwinding with friends — and had absorbed some part of it. She encouraged her fellow graduates to hold on to that power, but not to keep it to themselves.
"Go forth," she said, quoting Saint Ignatius Loyola, "and set the world on fire."
Some day, she offered, the graduates may share that power with their own family members, as her grandmother had shared it with her.
With that power comes responsibility, President John Bravman told the graduating class. Bucknell has helped the graduates develop detailed visions of the lives they want to realize, but the making of those lives has only just begun, and must never stop, Bravman said.
Bravman said the Bucknell faculty and staff "have asked you to live like your future — the future — is your responsibility, because it is."
Referencing the ongoing Campaign for Bucknell University, Bravman said the University and its supporters will stand behind the graduates as they go forward in life, as alumni have stood behind Bucknell.
"Who believes in the Class of 2013?" Bravman asked. "We do."
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