Education for the Eternities

In the August 2017 convocation ceremony, Dean J. Scott Miller, art history professor Heather Belnap Jensen, and linguistics graduate Delaney Barney spoke about the importance of continuing education, even after graduation.

At their convocation ceremony in August 2017, the College of Humanities graduates learned that, when one studies the humanities, the journey of knowledge is never finished. Dean J. Scott Miller, addressing the graduates, explained that they would only receive a protective cover for their diploma during the ceremony—the diploma would come later. Miller encouraged them to focus, therefore, on what the diploma represents: a reminder of their new status as a ‘diplomat’ willing to consider the views of others and to advance humanity. “Your life of learning begins now. Just as your empty cover waits to be filled, you stand ready to be filled with a lifetime of experiences enabled by what you have learned here,” he said. “This is not the end of the road, but the beginning of a lifetime enhanced and enriched by the things you will go on to learn and to do.”

Miller said that the graduation ceremony and diploma are designed to give tangible substance to a less-tangible experience: the long physical, emotional, and intellectual journey of obtaining higher education. This intellectual quest is similar to the journey each person undertakes in this life. “As we put heart and soul into our life’s journey the way we have during our college education, we can hope that the culminating moment of resurrection’s ‘convocation’ will also be a handshake, and then an embrace, by our Creator Himself,” he said.

Delaney Barney, a Linguistics graduate beginning her career at Goldman Sachs, also addressed her peers on the importance of continual learning in various fields. “Five, ten, or twenty years from now it won’t matter what your job title is or where you are in the world; what will matter is what you’ve learned up to that point and how you use that knowledge,” she said. “While this may be the end of formal schooling for some of you, I encourage you not to let it become the end of your learning.” She explained that many of her coworkers at Goldman Sachs come from humanities backgrounds and emphasized that the value of a humanities education can be found in the unique way that graduates are trained to see and interpret the world. She concluded, “If there’s one thing I want to leave you with, it’s that you will decide what it means to have been a humanities student.”

Professor Heather Belnap Jensen was the last to take the stand and impart advice to the eager graduates. The art history professor framed her address with a quote from Bathsheba W. Smith, the fourth general president of the Relief Society: “Therefore, it is plainly necessary that women, as well as men, cease not while life lasts to study diligently for the knowledge which is of greatest worth . . . let us learn the handiwork of God by the study of nature . . . let us improve our language . . . [and] let us open the books of life and salvation and study also the great authors, poets, and painters, that our minds may be clothed with intelligence and our hearts abound with human feeling.” She asked the graduates to pause and reflect on their own encounters with “transformative texts”—a film, a performance, a work of literature, or a piece of art that shifted their thinking, refined their spirits, or altered their hearts. Belnap Jensen encouraged the audience to continue studying the humanities because it will be “fundamental to fashioning [their] eternal person and to forging the bonds of the eternal human family.” Additionally, humanities graduates should share these transformative texts with others. “Recommend that film to your colleague, take your families to museums to see those artworks, share passages from books with those whom you serve. . . . Commend these transformative texts in which truth was spoken, hope proffered, morals defended, comfort extended, and never cease in your commitment to continue that most worthy quest to gain an education for eternity.”