Adam Ravain’s Commencement Address

Adam Ravain was one of four valedictorians for Arts & Sciences and the College of Professional Studies.

The following is a transcript of Adam Ravain’s valedictory address to graduates during the Arts & Sciences and College of Professional Studies 2013 commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 12.

(Photo by Scott Cook) (Photo by Scott Cook) President Duncan, Dr. Wright, members of the Board of Trustees, Provost Bresnahan, Vice Preident Nielson, Dean Smither, Dean Wellman, faculty, Class of 2013, and family, good morning. When I was selected to speak at commencement, I assumed that as a music performance major, giving a speech would feel as natural to me as giving a concert; but I was informed that it is not permissible to sing or play the valedictory address, nor may my fellow valedictorians here harmonize with me. It was then that I realized the uniqueness of this situation, which is both exciting and challenging: Exciting because I get to represent the Class of 2013 in thanking Rollins for enriching our lives for the last four years; and challenging because I have to condense four years of transformative experiences into a five-minute speech. So please allow me to share with you some of these unique experiences that make us the Class of 2013.

As students, we all have experienced success and disappointment, and I would encourage the Class of 2013 to not take either of them personally. Our Rollins education has prepared us to view success as an impetus to work even harder and disappointment as an opportunity to build character. This semester, I was preparing for a senior piano recital, but in January I developed carpal tunnel syndrome. This meant that I had to curtail my practice, and I eventually needed to replace some of my repertoire in order to preserve my hands. Changing the repertoire came to me as a great disappointment; but this initial setback proved to be a blessing because it forced me to stop practicing for long periods and to instead think about the purpose of being a performer, not solely to display technical proficiency, but ultimately to touch the audience through a language that transcends words. 

Another lesson I have learned at Rollins is to have the confidence to operate outside my comfort zone and adapt to changing situations. This year, I had the opportunity to teach a nine-year-old beginning piano student for my pedagogy class. I have been the recipient of 15 years of piano lessons, so I thought that teaching him would be effortless. I spent many hours crafting the first lesson plan, calculating the length of time for every detail. Getting to know the student and the family: 10 minutes. Discussing correct posture: 3 minutes. Hand position: 25 seconds. Both parents were educators, and I knew they would be impressed by my attention to detail. However, when my student walked into the room at the first lesson, I discovered that we were both embarking on a new adventure. My detailed lesson plan went out the window and my improvisatory training began.

One last thought I would like to share with the Class of 2013 is the old phrase, “It’s not about your ability, but your availability.” As young adults, we often devise ambitious and rigid plans for our futures; however, history teaches us that success comes to people who are willing to serve. I know that many in the Class of 2013 have served in various capacities: on mission trips at home and abroad and through various forms of community service. Regardless of individual skill sets, it is our availability and willingness to serve that ensure meaningful success.

Class of 2013, embrace discourse with your colleagues and with those from whom you seek advice. Truly listen to the wisdom offered to you by those who have more experience than yourself. Do not become “typecast” too early by making your majors, careers, or immediate plans your source of hope and identity, but take advantage of the unexpected changes in your lives to better understand the expansiveness of life and that God has a plan for all of us. Thank you to all the special

Rollins faculty members who have challenged us, inspired us, and opened up new worlds for us as they have shared their love of learning with us. More than we can possibly realize now, their transformative teaching over these past four years has ultimately helped to shape what our lives will become.

Class of 2013, two things to remember: Fiat Lux and Fox Day.