President David Munson's 2019 commencement address

Gabrielle Plucknette-DeVito

RIT President David Munson addressed the crowd at the Gordon Field House during RIT's 134th annual commencement ceremony on May 10.

RIT President David Munson addressed the crowd at the Gordon Field House during RIT's 134th annual commencement ceremony on May 10. The full text of his speech is below:

Good morning, Tigers!

It is my pleasure to welcome you—the Class of 2019, families and friends, faculty and staff, and Trustees—to this special occasion. My warmest congratulations to our new graduates. You have worked diligently to get to this moment. And now you are here!

What an honor it has been for me to serve as your president. I continue to be amazed and impressed by the talent and devotion of the RIT community. And my wife, Nancy, has so enjoyed getting to know many of you. You have our gratitude for making RIT an exceptional and distinctive university. Thank you so much!

And a special acknowledgment of our deaf and hard-of-hearing community members. You are so central to the life of RIT.

Today, we have some milestones that I am excited to share with you. Let me provide three highlights:

  • We have more than 4,200 students — at all degree levels — earning diplomas this spring. This is an all-time high, so you are all in the record books! Don’t worry, we aren’t reading off all your names at this academic convocation.
  • We have a record 41 doctoral candidates who we will confer degrees upon this morning. RIT’s momentum continues to accelerate in the research space. We are now among the top 6 percent of universities in the nation in terms of our research activity.
  • And congratulations to RIT China! In June, we will be celebrating our first class of graduates from the Weihai campus. This inaugural class from RIT China will join fellow graduates from international campuses in Dubai, Croatia, and Kosovo. Our global alumni family and network continues to flourish.

Let’s have a round of applause for these achievements!

To our 2019 graduates: Let’s talk about serving the greater good.

Our university isn’t like any other. RIT is distinctive. We do things in our own way. That mentality of uniqueness is baked into our university, as we have no interest in the status quo.

In the RIT context, “innovation” is about leveraging our strengths in technology, the arts, and design — the core of our university — to produce graduates in every discipline capable of practicing transformative innovation that serves the greater good.

RIT prides itself in preparing our graduates to be citizens of the world. That means preparing you not only for jobs and careers, but also preparing you for life. Today’s world needs people who know how to create and innovate, analyze and implement, collaborate and lead.

Creativity begins with people, and at RIT we have an unusual assembly of exceptional minds.

It is my hope, graduates of the Class of 2019, that you wake up tomorrow not solely focused on how to earn a living. Rather, that you go out and do your best to enrich the world. Indeed, RIT alumni  — now 130,000 strong with you included — are emblematic of goodness.

While you continue on your amazing journey, let me assure you that RIT will continue to grow and become the best it can be.

We intend to capitalize on the distinctiveness of RIT to further cement our niche in higher education. We represent creativity and innovation in all fields, with a strong culture of making. We make things that never existed before, whether those things are physical objects, digital media, original processes, or breakthrough concepts or ideas. And, we put those things into use. That's called innovation.

This campus has been rising rapidly for more than two decades, through the hard work of our students, faculty, and staff. My prediction is that you will see an acceleration of this trajectory. Our future contains dramatic improvements in facilities, substantial faculty hiring, and elevated programs that will promote cross-disciplinary and experiential learning.

When you return to campus as an alum, you will see changes … changes that should make you feel great pride. I don't want for you to ever feel that you missed it — missed this exciting future that we are talking about. Instead, I hope you understand that you created this future. It is through your talents and ideas that we have begun to see all that we can become. You literally have laid the foundation that enables this exciting future. You are part of RIT for Life. When you return to campus you may be thinking, "I wish I could start over."  You know what -- me too!  That will be the surest sign of our progress together.

Fifty years ago, when RIT was settling into this campus after a move from downtown Rochester, RIT President Mark Ellingson stated: “A growing institution always has some unfinished business.”  And he predicted the next 50 years would be even more fully spectacular because, he noted, “we are going at a constant accelerated pace.”

So, RIT has arrived and so have you, with much more on the horizon. It is an honor and privilege to serve as your president at this moment in time.

Please stay in touch and visit often. Congratulations again — and all of the best to each of you in your future endeavors.

Go Tigers!