Campus & Community

Graduate Commencement speaker urges departing students to choose the harder path

Donna Lynne, executive vice president of Kaiser Foundation Hospitals and Health Plan Inc. and a group president for Kaiser Foundation Health Plan Inc. and Kaiser Foundation Hospitals, delivered the Commencement address to graduate students on June 6 at Magness Arena. Photo: Wayne Armstrong

Donna Lynne, executive vice president of Kaiser Foundation Hospitals and Health Plan Inc. and a group president for Kaiser Foundation Health Plan Inc. and Kaiser Foundation Hospitals, delivered the Commencement address to graduate students on June 6 at Magness Arena. Photo: Wayne Armstrong

“When facing two paths, if you are strong enough, always choose the harder one.”

This was the advice that speaker Donna Lynne, executive vice president of Kaiser Foundation Hospitals and Health Plan Inc. and a group president for Kaiser Foundation Health Plan Inc. and Kaiser Foundation Hospitals, offered departing University of Denver graduate students at the 2014 spring Commencement ceremony on June 6 at Magness Arena.

Lynne shared her story with the audience, recalling her graduation 40 years ago and the world she graduated into — a world that “was full of inequity. Women, minorities, poor people all fighting for basic rights,” she said. “I knew only one thing when I graduated: I wanted to change the world.

“I didn’t end up as a crusading public defender or a savior of the oppressed, but I worked hard to lead in my own way in my career of public service in the private sector, and to be fair and compassionate to the people I worked with,” Lynne said. “I worked really hard to challenge them to do more than they thought they could. And I worked harder and probably longer than many, simply to show them that they could, too.”

Noting that many of the graduating students are members of the millennial generation — born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s   — Lynne remarked on what she knows of that demographic: They are more socially driven than previous generations, more accepting of diversity, optimistic about the future, and willing to work for change.

“Your lives are defined by passions,” she said. “I encourage you to be passionate about your work, but to find a job that supports those passions, so that you can accomplish both.”

Lynne told the graduates that the University of Denver has prepared them well for leadership positions, and that they must accept the responsibilities that go along with the job.

“When you are a leader, people watch you,” she said. “They have expectations of you. They need you. They look to you for inspiration and for guidance. They depend on you to often take the hardest path, for their sake and for the sake of the organization they work for. And, of course, taking the hardest path does not always guarantee that you’re going to succeed. Taking the hardest path may mean facing your own limitations. Facing your fears and actually failing. But there are learnings from that, and from that failure there are learnings that undoubtedly will contribute to your growth.”

Around 900 of 1,743 eligible graduate students attended the ceremony, including Andrew Steward (BA ’12), who received his master’s degree in social work.

“I really appreciated the Commencement speaker’s message,” Steward said. “Her words challenged us as graduates to see the potential our futures hold if we believe in ourselves. She demonstrated an example of meekness and stewardship to injustice and the benefit of society.”

 

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