JUNE 18, 1952
NEW YORK, Tuesday—It was an honor and a pleasure to address the 101 graduates of Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass., yesterday—the school's first commencement.
The president explained in his address that the group had always been seniors because they had never had a class ahead of them. Many college freshmen can behave foolishly, perhaps secure in the thought that they have older classmates with two or three years of experience ahead of them to tone down any foolishness. But a new university and new students must be at senior level from the start, even in the freshman class.
These students were taking a gamble, too. They could not be sure that the university would be successful, nor that it would reach standards that would be acceptable in the academic world. It was pioneering along certain lines, in searching for both a new faculty and new students.
No questions were being asked as to race, creed or color; registrants were being accepted on merit only. Some of them in their courses would lay emphasis on Hebrew and become rabbis; some of them would go from this university to theological studies in the Protestant religion somewhere else. Much opportunity was to be available in the field of arts in this new university, and young people were attracted to it who had an interest in music and writing and drama and painting.
The university has won its way and gained its place in academic circles. Of the students who tried for acceptance in the best graduate schools throughout the country this year, not one was refused. Even the medical students were all accepted.
A highlight of yesterday's festivities was one student who was graduated summa cum laude and who made the address for the students. He came from a refugee concentration camp in Germany and he has never had a mark blow "A" in his whole period at the university.
In his speech he said that probably none of the young people there would set the world on fire. That was becoming modesty, I suppose, and yet, just because of what he has been through, perhaps he is the one who should set the world on fire. If he does not, I am sure there are some in that group who will someday.
It may well be that those who make a mark for themselves later in life were not those who received the highest honors yesterday. It is the capacity to continue growing and never to let up on striving that is perhaps more important than the intellectual brilliance that carries a youngster to high marks in his early studies.
What an exciting time of year this is when all about us young people are finishing one phase of their lives and entering a new one.