One hundred years ago, commencement for the class of 1911 was held on June 14th at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall. It was a momentous occasion. The first degrees for electrical and mechanical engineering were awarded that day, nine EE and three ME degrees. The graduates and their guests were honored by the presence of Rear Admiral Robert E. Peary, who delivered the commencement address. He spoke before a packed auditorium which gave him an “enthusiastic reception,” with applause that made it impossible for him to speak for several minutes.
Admiral Peary, the first person to reach the North Pole on April 6, 1909, had quite a tale to tell! He began his speech by giving a brief history of the search for the North Pole, beginning with the first expedition in 1520, and then related the story of his own quest for the Pole spanning 23 years. The speech was long, but the crowd must have been mesmerized by the detailed account of Peary’s amazing achievement.
Admiral Peary concluded his remarks with these inspirational words for the graduates:
In those blue hours when stopped by insuperable obstacles, short of the absolute goal for which I was striving, I have faced the stern necessity of turning back, returning home and starting over again, with all the contingencies and uncertainties of an added year or two, I have hugged my dream to myself and said, “I shall come back and do it yet.” In the black moments of absolutely hopeless obstacles, of supreme physical discomfort, of threatened catastrophe, I have hugged my dream to myself and said, “This is but for the moment, I shall win out yet.” Were I a ragged beggar in the streets today, without a friend in the world, I could hug my dream to myself and feed and warm and clothe myself with the thought, “I have made good.” And when the end comes I can knock at the gates on the other side and, with head erect, offer as my passport, “I have made good.” I wish you all the good fortune in realization of your dreams and ideals, whether in business or invention or molding of the country’s history or other avenues that lead to progress and the good of mankind.
I hope these words inspire the Class of 2011, as well. Hug your dreams to yourselves graduates. Congratulations!