The following are notes from the speech delivered by Tami Tarpley, M.A. ’00, to the 2017 graduates of the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.
I want to thank the school for inviting me here today to welcome you to our alumni family. On behalf of your fellow alumni, I want to congratulate all of you who are graduating. I also want to congratulate your families and friends as well. Between academic, professional, and family commitments, few of us truly do this alone.
I entered the program as an Executive M.A. student following completion of the SPEA graduate certificate. I took the majority of my courses on campus in the traditional format, as well as executive and online offerings.
I can honestly say I’ve sampled the full menu when it comes to courses and they each offered me experiences to learn and connect with students and faculty in unique ways. I can’t leave out the professional education opportunities I’ve enjoyed throughout my career at The Fund Raising School. It’s gratifying to see each of these programs grow and evolve to meet the needs of students.
The faculty members here were so helpful in ensuring that course projects were relevant to my work and I was fortunate to be in an environment that supported my educational goals. Even with that support, my close friends and colleagues could tell you that on more than one occasion, I was sure that the each semester might be my last.
As we all know, the coursework here is engaging and rigorous. I wouldn’t have had it any other way, but I think we can all relate to the challenge of balancing the many demands on our time.
My friends and family learned that these moments of doubt always passed and that I would again register for courses the following semester. I was empowered and encouraged by classmates who overcame their own challenges to pursue their academic goals and who, I’m proud to say, are still among my most trusted colleagues and advisors. And, let’s be honest, who could walk away from discussing Tolstoy with Richard Gunderman, hearing Dwight Burlingame sing out “philanthropy” in operatic fashion, listening to a presentation from Deb Mesch and Una Osili, or engaging in a rousing class debate with Les Lenkowsky. I was inspired by their passion and I still am today.
At this time of year, graduates from around the country are being told that they are the best and brightest. That is certainly true in this room. It’s also true that we have been educated by the best and brightest in our field. We are often in the unique position to say that we learned about a given topic or area of research by the thought leaders who literally “wrote the book” on the subject at hand.
What a privilege to be part of a community where those who are conducting groundbreaking research are so closely engaged with the practitioners who put those insights to work every day in organizations that are making a difference around the world. One of the most special aspects of this environment is that practitioners are respected as scholars and that the work we do is honored as worthy of in-depth exploration, discussion, and innovation.
We often speak of the gifts of time, talent, and treasure—and you've given each of those to this school. Your contributions are sincerely appreciated. Your unique perspective enriches the lives of those around you and this community of lifelong learners. Thank you for what you’ve given to us and what you are taking into your work. The world needs your unique vision and so do we!
I know you are all going to follow your own distinct path and you will go into (or continue in) a variety of careers that will be better for the education you have received here. The best advice I can offer—and the request I will make of you—is that you stay connected. Stay connected with each other, with the faculty, and with your fellow alumni. These relationships will grow over the coming years and will enhance your work and your life. We look forward to supporting you and continuing to learn from each other throughout your career.