Peter van Dijk ‘82: President, Alumni Association

Peter Van DijkGood morning. It’s my great honor and true pleasure to officially welcome you to the Sarah Lawrence alumni community, pound for pound one of the most accomplished alumni bodies in the world. Now, for those of you who may think that statement strains credibility, I invite you to think of it this way:

Sarah Lawrence has been around for almost 90 years and today one of you will pick up our 14,000th B.A. Add a couple thousand graduate degrees and that comes to about 16,000 of us. That’s at least 5,000 fewer than this year’s total enrollment at schools like Harvard, Cornell, or the University of Pennsylvania. In fact, more than a dozen American universities will hand out more degrees this year alone.

So what if we compare apples to apples? Let’s imagine that the entire Sarah Lawrence alumni community was enrolled here at the same time. On the way to class, you might walk by Barbara Walters and Yoko, and Vera Wang, Rahm Emmanuel, Carly Simon, J.J. Abrams, Lesley Gore, Ann Patchett, and I could keep going like this for a long time before I got to hundreds and hundreds of equally accomplished lawyers, doctors, artists, teachers, entrepreneurs, and Survivor all-star Jonathan Penner.

Now, I mention all this not because I think any of you should take pride in anyone else’s accomplishments… unless those people are your children. (Parents, you get a free pass on that one today.) The point is that every one of those incredibly accomplished people once sat in the same chairs you are sitting in now, wearing the same outfits, and having just completed the same extraordinary education. And at that time, none of them had more innate potential than you have right now.

So, I guess the real point is, you have no excuse. You have no excuse, and we still have slots to fill: One of you will need to become President of the United States. Talk to Rahm, he can help. We also have openings for our first Supreme Court justice, our first Secretary General of the U.N., our first Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and our first center fielder for the New York Yankees.

Far more important than what we need is what you want. Whatever your vision of a successful life may be, go make that happen. Be bold. Help each other. Call on your fellow alumni. It may take time, you may have to learn some new skills, it will certainly take persistence, but it is not beyond your grasp. You are now part of one of the most accomplished alumni bodies in the world and no ambition is too great.

Congratulations to you all. And welcome to our Sarah Lawrence alumni community.