UMUC Commencement Keynote: Lynice D. Thorpe-Noel ’01 & ’05 – Saturday Morning, May 18, 2019

>>Hello, hello, how are you? What a great day, what a great
day to be here at the University of Maryland University College Park,
so, thank you President Miyares, for that warm introduction, and university
system of Maryland region, Lewis Pope, for your remarks and your hospitality. The University of MaryLand University
College, faculty and staff, family, friends, thank you for your support to the class of 2019. [ Applause ] Graduates, congratulations to all of you on your
achievement and thank you everyone, so much, for inviting me to be part
of this significant occasion. I’m truly honored and words really
cannot express how I feel right now. Thinking I would never, I would
have never thought at any time, that I would have this opportunity with
my path of acquiring a degree from UMUC, would present the opportunity that one day, that I would be invited back
to address a graduating class. To share with them my thoughts, my words,
and hopefully words of inspiration. I share with you a couple stories about myself
and those words that I hope will help you. I know in my life that it seems like
every turn I made has led me to a point that I didn’t really foresee coming. After returning home from Iraq, from 2005, I
was going through my mail at home that had piled up over that one year deployment, and I was
kind of going through it and I has a notice in the mail, I had a big folder
and it had a label on it from UMUC, and immediately I got a little nervous. I know I didn’t have to worry about
it being a parking ticket or anything, but I got a little nervous and I,
because I knew this had to be my diploma. And so immediately I got full of excitement and so much excitement that
the tears ran down my face. But guess what? I did it. And I had proof to show for it. As you have done it by your
example of being here. I said to myself, I have accomplished a mission
that I started 13 years earlier working on. I completed my bachelor’s degree, and
just the pride of that just has moved me. It’s kind of like that story, I don’t know
whether you’re familiar with the Wizard of Oz, but it’s kind of like Dorothy,
trying to find her way back home. And after embarking on her eye
opening adventure, Dorothy realized, she realized that life had
changed for her forever. As the land of opportunity
has now laid before her. She understood at that point, that very point
then, that it was going to be a new journey. It was a new journey about to begin as
she tried to find her way back home. And I think that that’s kind
of how that looks now for you. It’s now a new journey that
begins for all of you. Early on and when I was a youngster, a
young child, I had a seed planted in me about the values of education and the values of
knowledge and that education that you can get. And along the way, the awareness that while
obtaining higher education has it’s challenges, it also creates an opportunity for one to
be more and for you to be able to do more. See I was fortunate to have a grandmother
and a great aunt who were both educators. They was educators that graduated
to Brown College in South Carolina. And I also had a mother that was a
strong advocate for education as well. She always wanted to get her degree but was
never able to do so because of the challenges of life and simply just the timing of it, that she didn’t get the chance
to pursue her education. So she had to make a choice, pursuing that
of, or taking time to raise her family. So she chose family. But I would share with you today is that
after all these years, my mother, now 72, will be going back to college
to finish complete her degree. [ Applause ] In the fall, this fall, at
the University of Alabama. There’s probably many of you that’s
sitting here right here today, who delayed starting your
education for a number of reasons. Most of you work at least one job, you
have families you’re taking care of day to day things, and just simply, life. But somehow, you found a way through
sacrifice, hard work, sleepless notice, perseverance, to get it all done and succeed. I look at you now, sitting here in your caps and
gowns, you are a shining example of the height and opportunities an individual can achieve with
hard work, when you stare down your obstacles and never, never give up on your dreams
and goals, and adopt that attitude that failure is really not an option. [ Applause ] I’m so proud of you, so incredibly proud of
you, and I’m very familiar with your journey. Because see I started off on a long, I
was a slow starter I guess you can say. I went to college immediately out of high
school in 1987, I was 17 years old and I went to college and I was there but somewhere
along the way, I lost my motivation and dedication to do what I needed to. So after 2 years, I figured
that I would do something else. I would say I was like many adults who
began college immediately after high school. I had to figure out really, what I wanted
and what I really wanted to do with my life. So I ended up joining the military, because
I didn’t want to go back home empty handed. But I didn’t have a trade,
nor did I have a skill. So I enlisted into the army. I learned very quickly after joining the army
that the army’s greatest asset is its people. And one of the core army values is investing
in the education in its armed forces. Building an environment of a
life-long learning environment so I immediately enrolled back in school. So it came full circle on me that I couldn’t
get away from education no matter what I did. But I was glad to be able
to have that opportunity. It took me 18 years to complete all my
education, my Associate’s, my Bachelor’s, and my Master’s degree, but I made that
commitment that regardless of how long it took, would take me, that I would
at least take one class, if not two classes, a semester
until I get it done. It’s interesting how you have people on
your journey that sees a potential in you and see that you have a goal that
they want to support you with. I had a first sergeant that supported me fully,
this person didn’t even have an education of his own, but he was committed
to me getting my education. He, that investment back into people,
that he adjusted my work schedule so that I can attend classes
during the day and, of course, I was also attending, taking classes online. I even once took a final exam while deployed, at a combat hospital using a
hospital bed as my tabletop. The proctor was an army surgeon. [ Applause ] I know most of you can identify with
taking classes at night after work, giving countless hours to
studying, conducting research, writing papers, working on projects and more. All of you know this drill. We’ve experienced different
challenges while incurring a degree but our stories are really similar
as I have already shared with you. I’m so grateful to the University of
Maryland for providing me and you, and more than 200,000 other
non-traditional students over the years, with the pathway to earn a
degree to succeed in life. The average student at UMUC is in his,
in his or her 30’s, 60% are affiliated with the military, and 50% are minorities. Our challenges and needs are different
and the university accommodates that. UMC has, UMC takes such intense interest in not
just intellectual development of their students, but in the character and integrity, and
individual capacity of their students to blossom, flourish, and
reach their full potential. You should be proud and [inaudible]
of yourselves. I want to leave you with three part thoughts
moving forward professionally and personally into the next chapter; one, never forget those
who provided you the support along the way, I believe we will all agree that no
one can ever achieve success alone. Pay them back by paying it
forward to someone else. Empower, educate and enable, and engage others
for we are, you are, an example for them. Two, embrace every moment, supersize
your dream, set goals high and never, never let anyone convince you that
you cannot accomplish something. Stay positive, activate your resiliency
plan when you run into obstacles, setbacks, just remember, you got this. After what you have accomplished
believe me, you got this. I encourage you to draw from the inner
strength that you got you to this point today, support from your family,
friends, for some higher powers. In closing, I want to share
with you one last thing. Due to timing with my assignments and moves
and deployments, I never got the chance to walk across the stage, to accept any of my diplomas
at my graduations, and that’s bothered me, it always has bothered me some,
but today, standing on this stage, addressing this graduating class
of 2019, I feel like I’m graduating with you in the most grand fashion. [ Applause ] Thank you. Things have a way of miraculously
working out when you persevere, and today all of you have proven that. Thank you again for this heartwarming
experience, and all the best to all of you. Continue to strive for the highest,
congratulations class of 2019! Thank you very much!

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