Frank Marx' valedictory address


Good morning Father President, Bishop Lori, members of the Board of Trustees, Ms. Roberts, honored guests, members of the faculty and administration, family, friends and members of the class of 2004. It is a great honor to be speaking to you today on such a joyous occasion. I would like to talk to you about our transition to the future, and how we can achieve the most for others while creating great joy for ourselves.

Happiness, success and doing good for others are things we all want, and they can be attained with our heart. Those of you who know Father Carrier may be familiar with a favorite reference of his to the Prophet Micah, who said, "What does the Lord ask of you? To act justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with your God." Now is our time to face reality. We must continue to foster our attentiveness, to have compassion or 'heart' for others, and to complement this with action by enthusiastically participating in the world's events.

Just as we, the class of 2004, are better as a result of our experiences at Fairfield, so too is Fairfield University a better place as a result of us having been here. Now is our opportunity to live out our education, promote positive change and act in the world to make it a better place. Our heart has helped bring us to where we are today; but the question remains, will we make the choice to follow it in the future? To answer this question, we must look both backwards and forwards, to learn from the past, while looking within us and also outside us, to remain true to ourselves as well as the society in which we live.

Because our heart is the biological lifeline we rely on for survival, it should not come as a surprise that it's at the core of all that we do. We are dependant on our heart, not only for its circulation function, but also for love, identity, compassion and direction.

It is this heart that dictates who we are as individuals and how we interact with the world. Just as the beating of the heart keeps the body alive, the future of the world relies on us to have heart and follow our heart. Ordinary people often ignore this and live without realizing their full potential for happiness and sensitivity; exceptional people recognize this responsibility and work to circulate improvement in the world.

I cannot claim that I have always lived up to this duty by making nothing but untainted decisions. I can, however, say with confidence that the decisions I've made that were pure and heartfelt have led to great happiness in my life. Choosing Fairfield University as my home for the past four years was one of those decisions.

When completing my college search during senior year of high school, I had my choice narrowed to two universities, but there was no concrete or tangible factor pulling me either way. However, Fairfield felt right, and I knew in my heart that I would find great happiness here. I think you are all familiar with the feeling that led me to my decision; we've all encountered it many times. It's the genuine gut feeling that reaches out and encourages us to make the right decisions. Yet, we often ignore this precious feeling, ignore our heart, and convince ourselves otherwise.

Everyday, we encounter roadblocks in the form of advertising, popular culture, feelings of greed, and pressure to achieve conventional fiscal success. These roadblocks battle our heart to skew our outlook on reality and can quickly put us on the path to disastrous unhappiness. Overcoming this struggle and following our heart will allow us to look back on our lives with great satisfaction.

Because my heart is what brought me to Fairfield, it is in many ways responsible for the unforgettable times I've had these four years. We've all enjoyed the comfort and security of this beautiful campus and the generosity of so many concerned faculty and administration. We've had the privilege of experiencing the last four years of Father Kelley's 25-year tenure as President of this great university.

We've witnessed momentous additions to campus in the Barone Campus Center, Nyselius-DiMenna library, Bannow Science Center and a great deal of other development. We've had the privilege of countless educational and social experiences here at Fairfield. But as all of this has taken place, we have also been called to have a critical awareness of the sometimes harsh world. Our world has been shaken by war, terrorism, and oppression: on an international level and an interpersonal one. The memories of September 11th and the current struggle in Iraq will live on in our hearts forever.

We have all chosen to manifest our awareness in different ways such as through prayer, reflection and our relationships with others or through community service, outreach programs and mission volunteers. While we, the fortunate recipients of university degrees, have been studying these past four years, so many of our fellow Americans have been making an impact on the world: on the battlefields of Iraq or in the many communities within our country's borders. The fact that our education has been a privilege mandates that this diploma is not only a great honor but also a great responsibility.

We must now transition to the future and continue to look within ourselves, as well as to examples around us, to ensure that we achieve our full potential for happiness, accomplishment and compassion for others.

As Fairfield University graduates, we are called to promote truth and integrity in everything we do. It is not enough, however, to act with integrity in the surrounding world; we must also remain true to ourselves by allowing our heart to guide us to a life of doing what we love.

In order to ensure our Jesuit education serves to benefit others, we must first accept the fact that this education has been for our benefit. Following our heart to pursue a career we love corresponds with our Jesuit foundation to live our lives for others and is not a selfish path to take. Dedicating ourselves to what we are most passionate about will allow us to be the best at what we do and will translate into the fulfillment of our responsibility to achieve for others.

It is important to realize that, in almost any occupation, there is the potential to make a great impact on the lives of others by working hard at what we love. We can draw on the examples of two Fairfield graduates who have demonstrated this in very different ways. On one hand, we can recognize Doug Perlitz, from the class of '92. In 1996, Doug moved to Cap Haitien in Haiti to establish a ministry to work with the local street kids and provide them with the facilities, guidance, and support needed to successfully complete their education. Even during the most recent time of war and tragic political and economic unrest in Haiti, Doug has shown a great deal of strength and heart by staying true to his commitment to provide refuge for many of the town's youths.

On the other hand, we can draw on the example of Karen Donoghue, class of 2003, who was the FUSA president for the 2002-2003 academic year. Karen distinguished herself as the first female student body president in Fairfield's history. She was a true advocate for the students and rejuvenated FUSA by opening new lines of communication with the student body. Karen is currently working toward a Masters in Higher Education at Rider University. She is focusing on leadership development and plans to build on her Fairfield University experience by continuing to empower college students in her career.

What Karen, Doug and many others like them have in common is that they are doing what they love! They have made life-changing decisions for the right reasons, achieving great success for themselves and others through dedication to their passions. As we face the task of constructing a reality out of our dreams, with our education as the foundation, we must always remember that following our heart for compassion and direction will be the surest path to living out the Jesuit ideals.

I challenge you to follow the example of this university: to never become complacent with your success and to always strive for growth. Do not live passively, but be extraordinary and represent Fairfield well by making a difference in the world. As you look back on these four years, stop to pat yourself on the back. We've made it, and we are ready for the next step! Thank you all very much, and God Bless.

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on May 20, 2004