Graduate Commencement Address The University of Scranton May 30, 2015

May 30, 2015

Col. James F. Cummings, M.D., ’88,

Director at the Department of Defense’s (DoD)

Global Emerging Infection Surveillance and Response Systems

Graduate Commencement Address

The University of Scranton

May 30, 2015


My thanks to President Father Quinn, Provost Dr. Boomgaarden , notable deans and professors, friends and family and most importantly, my soon-to-be fellow Alumni. I am honored to be here with you today and humbled by your own achievements, and I have to say, after what seems like a lifetime away, it is good to be home.

As some of you may know, I am a Scranton Royal to the core. All six of my brothers and sisters, and I, have graduated from the University. My Father, Thomas Patrick Cummings was a member of the class of 1952. My Mom, Marie E. Cummings, an alumna from the graduate school, earned her master’s degree in education in 1977 in her spare time in between being a fulltime elementary school teacher and fulltime mother – and I have nephews and nieces all earning or who have earned their degrees from the University.

I mention this history for 2 reasons. One: to give you the granularity of how meaningful it is for me and my family to be here with you.

The second reason is, after attending all those graduations and recently reflecting on them in preparation for today, I had a hard time remembering the specifics of what was said by the commencement speaker. With that last point in mind, I may not be memorable to you years from now, but at least I can be brief today. As the poets say...brevity is genius.

Know yourself, be true to yourself, follow your passions …

In preparation for this address, I queried those august repositories of knowledge known as Wikipedia and Google, and found that not much is written about the Ignatian-Jesuit ideal of “cura personalis,” which, for the small number of non-Latin scholars out there, is Latin for “care for the whole person.”

Cura personalis” comes down to the respect for all that makes up each individual. St. Paul reminded us in the first book of Corinthians (12:12), “the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body ...” Not to second guess that great Saint’s wording, but to paraphrase: your talents, abilities, physical and mental attributes, your personalities, desires, faith, hearts and minds are all equally worthy of care, development and attention.

Cura personalis” is typically heard in Jesuit universities and especially here at Scranton. Why? Because The University of Scranton’s mission and purpose goes far beyond the intellect of the head. Our alma mater, was nourishing not just your brain with specific data and information directly pertaining to your concentrated area of study, but rather the total person that you are and that you have become. Developing and knowing your whole self allows you to know your strengths, your weaknesses and your passions. You’ve spent a great deal of time honing your skills and talents in advanced courses here at Scranton – now comes the time to move forward on your journey, traveling new paths and sharing the wisdom and insight you have gained from your years here at Scranton.

A good friend of mine, Dr. Eric Blomain, once told me that he’s had the great opportunity of never having worked a day in his life – not during his long surgical career. He has followed his passion for healing people and doesn’t consider it work. … He considers it the privilege that it is. That is my hope for each of you, that you follow your passion, whether it’s in health care, education, business, science or any other field. To do what you love and to love what you do – that is the best you can do, for others, and for yourself.

Be a man or woman for others ...

Fathre Pedro Arrupe was the 28th Superior General of the Society of Jesus (It would appear Fr. Quinn that you and I have another thing in common beyond our love for Scranton. We both have generals in our lives giving us direction). In an address to the Congregation in Spain, he spoke of being men and women for others. He said, and I paraphrase slightly “Today our (Jesuit) prime educational objective must be to form men- and women- for others; men and women who will live not for themselves, but for God and his Christ and for the least of their neighbors.” He was speaking about you. He was speaking about us. Will you embrace your Jesuit training and heritage? Will you accept that challenge of being a man or woman for others? I sure hope so. I hope I have – and I know you can.

It doesn't matter if you’re fighting Ebola or malaria on some distant continent, or teaching at a local school here in the USA, or invigorating the economy through business and job creation, or the myriad of other things you might elect to do after graduation. Just do it. You can be heroes, affecting change in the world, for the betterment of not just yourself and your families, but for “others” as well. Be that force of nature, that rising tide that raises ALL Ships. It may not be easy, but it is within your grasp.

Go and set the world on fire...

This great concept, from Saint Ignatius, was directed to his Jesuits when going out into the world on their missions. The same charge is given to you today. To go and set the world on fire. Take that fire in your belly, that spark of enthusiasm, that flame of the Holy Spirit, and let it spread like a wild fire throughout the world. Fire jumps gaps, it spreads quickly, and changes whatever it touches. You being “The Difference” will set the world ablaze.

As I will be receiving an honorary degree, I’m very excited to rebrand myself as a member of the class of 2015, and I look forward to seeing all of you at our five year reunion.

Good luck. God bless, and I look forward to hearing and seeing your future achievements. Do great things.

Thank you.

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