May 19, 2019

Devin Thornburg, Ph.D. – 2019 Commencement Speech

Thank you, President Riordan, Provost Everett, faculty colleagues, Adelphi administrators and staff, members of the Board, alumni, and parents and families and most of all, to the graduating Class of 2019. 

We have learned a great deal from you. You have taught us what we do well and what we need to do better. Some of us will build on those lessons in the future. I daresay all of us have been affected by you and your time in our classes, our labs, our studios, our theaters, our field sites, and our offices. 

The great writer in education, Paulo Freire, wrote that “Education must begin with the solution of the student-teacher contradiction, by reconciling the poles of the contradiction so that both are simultaneously teachers and students.” That dynamism and tension is very real and is a part of our experience with each of you. I believe that it’s worth noting, too, that he wrote, “Washing one’s hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral.” This conflict is engaging and growthful.  We hope you know that, too.  It is an engagement that faculty colleagues consider part of the role we play at Adelphi that carries over to the classroom.

As the Faculty Senate Chair, I have learned—and been humbled—by my colleagues in their work with me this year and previous years. I have learned (and relearned and relearned) the following quote—again by Paulo Freire: “Leaders who do not act dialogically, but insist on imposing their decisions, do not organize the people—they manipulate them.” This is a collective, a learning community—and you will be a part of many over your own lives—and there are many, many voices that have been those you’ve heard in your classes.  They aren’t saying the same thing or have the same views but they are all saying:  think for yourselves. 

The faculty have a great belief and trust in all of you and we hope that this is part of what you have learned here.  These lessons have been part of what we learn daily and as part of a much larger community of administrators, staff and all of the workers who make Adelphi great. In this sense, I think a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. is particularly relevant: “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education.” Your character is as much of concern to us as your mind. We hope that we have emulated and inspired you through our own character. I hope I can presume to speak with all of us in that you inspire us every day.

On behalf of the faculty, we will wish you the very best of futures in your lives and please remember:  be a learner and be the kind of leader who is collaborative and concerned about character and trust in this most challenging of times. Thank you very much.

More Adelphi News

About Adelphi: A modern metropolitan university with a personalized approach to higher learning

Adelphi University, New York, is a highly awarded, nationally ranked, powerfully connected doctoral research university dedicated to transforming students’ lives through small classes with world-class faculty, hands-on learning and innovative ways to support academic and career success. Adelphi offers exceptional liberal arts and sciences programs and professional training, with particular strength in our Core Four—Arts and Humanities, STEM and Social Sciences, the Business and Education Professions, and Health and Wellness.

Recognized as a Best College by U.S. News & World Report, Adelphi is Long Island’s oldest private coeducational university. It serves almost 8,000 students at its beautiful main campus in Garden City, New York—just 23 miles from New York City’s cultural and internship opportunities—and at dynamic learning hubs in Manhattan, the Hudson Valley and Suffolk County, as well as online. 

More than 116,000 Adelphi graduates have gained the skills to thrive professionally as active, engaged citizens, making their mark on the University, their communities and the world.

For further information, please contact:

Taylor Damian
Associate Director for Media Relations 
p – 516.877.4040
e –