sealPurdue News

May 16, 1998

Purdue graduates encouraged to build new 'cathedrals'

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Purdue President Steven C. Beering told new graduates about the cathedrals of Europe and talked about building their own monuments to society during the first of four commencement ceremonies.

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Approximately 4,515 students were eligible to participate in commencement ceremonies this weekend on the West Lafayette campus. Ceremonies were scheduled for 9:30 and 2:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday (5/16-17) in Elliott Hall of Music.

"They (the cathedrals) are more than architectural masterpieces," Beering said. "They tell us something about the human spirit. These cathedrals were built at a time when life was turbulent and uncertain. War, violence and disease were continual threats.

"There was little time and few resources for anything but survival. Yet, the desire to create something beautiful and lasting could not be suppressed. When a town built a cathedral, everyone participated. "The work went on for decades even centuries. Therefore, many of the people involved knew they would never see the finished building. Yet, they wanted very much to be part of it. "

Beering said cathedrals are a symbol of how people create a legacy for future generations "It manifests itself in every nation, in every culture, in every faith. It is the flint that strikes fire in our souls and brings forth art, literature, poetry and philosophy. And it is the reason we pursue education.

"You (new graduates) have had the chance to expand your knowledge, develop your analytical powers, and refine your professional skills at one of the world's truly great universities.

"So the question I think each of you must contemplate this morning is simply, 'What kind of cathedrals will I build?'

"You may not have the answer to that question today. I certainly didn't when I was receiving my first university degree - although I thought I did. Life has a way of bringing surprises. Some of these are opportunities and some are obstacles - and it's not always easy to know the difference. The important thing is to use neither as an excuse for failure or indifference.

"Each generation of graduates faces a defining challenge. For your grandparents, that challenge was a consuming war that tested their courage and their commitment to preserve freedom. For your parents, the challenge was more ambiguous. They came of age at a time when America was questioning many of our long-held values and when we were recognizing that our country had denied freedom and rights to many of our people. This was a different kind of test, but it still demanded courage and a true commitment to morality.

"Your defining challenge is yet to be determined, but perhaps it will be to administer wisely the greatest opportunity for peace, prosperity and justice our world has ever seen. During your brief lifetimes, these possibilites, once remote have become very real. Throughout the world, there is recognition of the idea that we all need one another, and that together we can make things work better.

"But that bright picture is a fragile image. History teaches us how easily greed and perverse ambition can subvert progress and justice. Think of what is happening in Asia and India right now. So your challenge is not any easier than the ones your parents and grandparents faced - but you may be a generation that makes greater strides than any other.

"What you can share in common are certain virtues that are valid in any age. Among these are honesty, compassion, fairness, self-discipline and a sense of responsibility to yourself and to others. I would add one more virtue to that list and that is optimism.

"Believe in the perfectibility of your fellow human beings. Believe that your own hard work will be rewarded. Believe that you can make a difference. Believe that you can create a better world for the children who will follow you. And above all, believe in the Almighty and with His help in yourself."


Jennifer Peng (Boston, Mass.), is presented with balloons and roses by her mother Ching-Ching after her commencement exercises today (Saturday 5/16). Approximately 4,515 students were eligible to participant in one of the four commencement ceremonies conducted today (Saturday 5/16) and Sunday (5/17) in Elliott Hall of Music on Purdue's West Lafayette campus. This was Purdue's 174th commencement ceremony. (Purdue News Service Photo/David Umberger)
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Source: Steven C. Beering, (765) 494-9708

Writer: J. Michael Willis, (765) 494-0371; home, (765) 379-2904; e-mail,
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; e-mail,

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