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Farewell and Good Luck Class of 2017

 Farewell, Young Doctors. Go Be The Vision.

Dear Class of 2017;

This was Nick's final email email to the Class of 2017 on Thursday, May 11, 2017.—23,890+ emails later… Today, May 12, 2017 they graduate as Doctor's of Optometry.  Please indulge me for a bit… If I were to give your commencement address…Here is what I would have to say to each of you and to be honest—I don’t like goodbyes, so this will help capture my thoughts and feelings.  Today, we celebrate your commencement.  Cheers- Nick

This is all because of you.

Four years ago each of you began a journey together—not knowing what to expect or what to do, but you quickly learned the next four years would be a challenge.  Through it all though, you stood tough.  Quite frankly, it wasn’t always easy and I am sure moments questioning your decision crossed your mind—maybe more than once.  Always remember this: If it was meant to be easy then everyone would be here, but that is not the case.  You are one of a small group of dedicated people who stepped up to the challenge!

You learned and honestly, I learned too.  I never truly realized or appreciated why I fell into higher education, until you became the Class of 2017.  Over the past four years I have watched and learned from each of you.  Your journey has been a journey and learning experience for me—and boy did I learn!  You and the students after you are part of my life mission and you became like my children. 

It is normal to question our path in life and wonder what the purpose of our life is and after the past four years, I realize more and more that if I can help just one person meet their goals—then I am on the right path.  I encourage you to remember that as you begin your new path in life—making a small difference can have a huge impact on someone else. 

A bit of honesty—you were like my test subjects.  As I was relatively new to my role at the same time of you started apply, interviewing and starting here, I was learning what my role was and what I could do to help you be successful. That piece of success is simple:  Support and serve the students.  Be real.  Make people laugh.  Have fun.  Buckle up and enjoy the adventure. 

Today, this part of your educational journey comes to an end, but your learning will continue.  The last four years have been more than just an educational journey; it has also been a journey of you discovering new abilities, testing your endurance and determination.  You also gained new relationships along the way.

Four years ago you came together as strangers, but now you leave a little richer with new friendships and for some of you—you got lost in each other’s eyes and fell in love.  One of the greatest gifts that you leave with is the gift of friendship—forged from day one and continues to at this very moment.  The level of your friendships will vary, but one thing is for certain—you all stuck it out together.  

I have watched each of you grow.

When I back to the class mixer, then orientation, white coat, and now graduation—you changed.  You have grown up.  You have achieved a goal and for that alone you should be proud.  

For me, I have watched you grow from day one.  Not every moment was great, but every moment was a lesson learned.  While some tried to label your class—the end of the day—you were your own group.  If my office walls could talk I am sure they would have a lot to say—from the cries, the laughs, the frustrations, to the celebrations—they are all part of this journey.  They will be the memories that will always serve as a beacon of light when we need that bit of inspiration.

Remember when you head out into the working world that nothing defines you greater than your ability to conquer and prove to yourself and others that you deserve to be here at this point in your life. You deserve the applause and recognition that you did it! 

It was not easy, but you persevered—even when quitting may have seemed a lot easier. Through sweat, tears, sleepless nights, unending pressures, struggles, and sometimes heartache you conquered. 

You did not give up.

Some of you may have some work to do, but don’t give up. Keep your eye on the dream and keep working each day. Don’t let the thoughts of “I can’t, I won’t, or why bother overtake your mind and desire—the harder you work at something the greater the satisfaction.

Don’t give up.

A teacher in her first year of teaching shared with me something that has so much meaning and something I want to share with you, “Your first class will be your class. They will be the one that defines you, your successes, your setbacks, your future, and your accomplishments. They will become the basis and foundation on which your future is built on.”   This holds so much truth, especially to me.   Let this journey be your foundation for a bright and successful future.

When you walk out of UMSL one last time, I hope you look back and remember all the good and realize that not everything is easy and not everything is perfect, but you can be assured you are leaving here a better and well-educated person.  You will leave behind a void that can never be replaced.  There will class will ever be exactly like you, but you will be the guiding principles that I use for all future classes that follow you. 

I am mixed with emotions that this day has arrived, but you are like those geese I described on your interview day.  You are leaving one flock and preparing to join a new one and I say to you—fly high and strong to the bright future ahead.  My sincere hope is that I had at least a little role to play in your success and your journey while you were here.    
Where it all began... August 2013. 

Each of you conquered task that seemed beyond conquerable.  You never gave up and you all stuck together through it all.  What makes me so proud of each of you is the strong connection you have developed with each other.  Look at each other and smile knowing that as a group you held each other together.
You stuck together.

Applaud yourself that you didn’t let the cynics and naysayers destroy your goals and dreams.  Don’t let the negative define you.  You achieved your goals in part because of them.

The past four years have been a joy and blessing for me.  You all came from different places in life and morphed into a unique group—“The Class of Personality!”  Or “Nick’s Class” Whatever label you want to choose—at the end of this chapter—you are here because you believed.  I am confident that you will be successful in everything you set out to do in your future.

Don’t lose touch with each other.  Maintain those friendships and always look back on the memories that kept you going even when your motivation was lacking. 

Your journey became with an idea and dream to one day be a doctor.  You are now that… A doctor.  After graduation, I want you to remember that you are a doctor because you believed in yourself and from the endless support of your family, friends, spouses, faculty and staff.   Don’t leave this chapter behind without looking back one last time.  Look back and smile and then garner up the excitement, perhaps mixed with some fear of what the future holds for you!

With this new title of Optometrist also comes new responsibilities…The biggest responsibility is to never lose sight of why you became a doctor.  Always remember as a doctor, people come to you and put trust in you that will take care of them.  Treat your patient's as you would your own family.  I believe how you treat and care for your patients will define you and your success.  This is, perhaps, one of the most fundamental things that you do in your professional career.

Be compassionate and listen actively to your patients.  Listening and compassion will build trust and success.  Don’t let the things annoy or scare you.  Embrace the difficult patient and situation as a continued learning experience.  Mentor others who aspire to be an optometrist.  Remember your beginnings and never lose sight of the oath to care for others.

Always treat people the way you want to be treated—this is the golden rule and I hope you will do this in your career.

I leave you with these last thoughts, Life is not meant to be easy and the harder one works for a better life, the greater the reward will be.  We don’t always see the challenges that await us, but you must welcome them as they will make you stronger.  Give your all and dare to be all you can be in life.

Class of 2017 you have changed and grown up through all the challenges.  As the song, “For Good” from the musical Wicked says, “I've heard it said that people come into our lives for a reason. Bringing something we must learn. And we are led to those who help us most to grow if we let them. I know I'm who I am today because I knew you I have been changed for good.”

It has been a joy and an honor to watch you grow, learn, and become the person you are today.  I will always hold the memories of your class dear to my heart and you will always define what I do at the College of Optometry.  I wish you the best and until our paths cross again—go out and be the vision for a brighter and healthier future.

Congratulations UMSL Optometry Class of 2017.

Nick Palisch

Director of Student and Alumni Services

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