1780 – The Official Blog of Transylvania University

1780 | The Official Blog of Transylvania University

Transylvania student commencement speaker challenges Class of 2024 to “pass on the light”

Transylvania student speaker Em Spencer

Each year a student representative is selected to speak on behalf of the class at Transylvania’s commencement ceremony. This year, two students were selected.

Em Spencer is from Georgetown, Kentucky. They majored in Art History with a minor in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality studies. During their time at Transy, Em served as the vice president of Phi Mu and was on the golf team. They were an Admissions Ambassador, Writing Center Staffer, student researcher and member of the Transylvania choir. Em will continue their studies at Syracuse University in pursuit of a master’s degree in Art History.

The following is a transcript of Spencer’s prepared remarks:

“In Lumine illo Tradimus Lumen.” In that light, we pass on the light. Most everyone that passes through the Transylvania community in some form or another has heard our motto and resonated with its message. When I toured campus in the fall of 2018, I saw this light– an almost tangible, buzzing energy– being passed from student to staff to professor as I walked around the two small blocks we have now called home for four years. As an eager incoming freshman, I was not expecting the first light that Transy shined on the class of 2024 to be a blue one. While we were on campus for our first year, I met most of you– my closest friends, mentors, colleagues, and teammates– on a laptop screen. 

We entered our undergraduate experience at an extremely liminal moment. Beginning college is already riddled with emotions of uncertainty and nervousness, but the rapidly changing world around us forced our class to operate with a newfound sense of problem-solving and resilience. This shared strength did not arise simply of our own accord. The classes that came before us welcomed us into this community with wide open, yet socially-distant, arms. These resident Transylvanians shined a light through their leadership, commitment to academics and athletics, and service to others. As first years, we were immediately taken under the wings of numerous juniors and seniors. From them, we learned to take classes in disciplines we are truly passionate about and to nurture our intellectual curiosity. We learned to sit in the front and take full advantage of office hours– for both the academic assistance and the fruitful storytelling. We learned to get involved in student organizations and to combine our voice with those of our peers to engineer a vehicle for visible change. Most importantly, we were given a space to unapologetically discover the most authentic versions of ourselves. These upperclassmen provided a warm glow for us younger students to bask in and learn from.

At some point during our four years, we made the transition from enjoying the glow of their light to the shining of our own. I can’t pinpoint an exact moment when this occurred. Rather, it was more of a gradual passing of a metaphorical torch that went largely unnoticed until I began working in the writing center and giving tours to prospective students. Instead of referencing upperclassmen students and their accolades, I began noting the accomplishments of those sitting in the seats beside you. Our class contains published scholars, national champions, activists, thespians, musicians– multitudes, in the words of Walt Whitman. In the short walk to class from Thomson Hall to Carpenter or Brown Science Center, I see dozens of you and the energy that emanates from within. In the words of Dr. Svarlien, the energetic aura that radiates from each of you causes you to almost hover above the sidewalk– always ready for the next class, meeting, and endeavor. The diversity of talents, passions, and aspirations of this graduating class has been burning brightly for some time now. 

But, as our time as Transylvanians comes to a close, how can we continue to harness this light and shine it onto others – even when we no longer inhabit the space in which we currently reside? Even though the future may feel uncertain and the impending alumni status appears daunting, a few things I know are true. We were invested in by this community before we even stepped foot on campus. Once we did, we were shown how to make the most out of the incredibly special force that is the Transylvania education and experience. We have figured out how to be Transylvanians and have challenged each other to keep redefining what that means with each article published, game won, and performance given. My charge to you, the class of 2024, is this: continue to recognize your own light and see that light in others. Invest in those around you and give those in your new communities the same space to grow and shine that you have had on this campus. We have been in the light and been the light, now it’s time to pass on that light. Thank you all.