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May 14, 2022

Commencement 2022 — Remarks by the President

President Kyle Farmbry's opening remarks to the students and guests at Guilford College Commencement 2022 (as prepared for the event)

I was thinking about my job today and I wanted to put it into context. As someone who has had training as a lawyer — I like to occasionally compartmentalize items … to break them down into manageable pieces — to help convey a much larger message.

In this case, I realized that on this day … a day of graduation … in about an hour and a half, you’ll have long forgotten anything I might say. People remember the beach balls that they bounce around the crowd, the champagne that they were able to sneak in, the celebratory dinners, or the lead-up to the graduation ... but people rarely remember the comments by the College President…especially when you have had a few of us. But I’m going to give this a go anyway ...  And to make it easier for you … just in case you remember my speech, I’m going to break my comments into four components:

Component one focuses on welcoming. As the 10th president … Maria … I am 10th, right? OK … so as the 10th President of Guilford College — I want to welcome all of our friends and family members to campus on this Saturday morning, for what is our first in-person graduation in three years. Graduations are among the pivotal moments of one’s life, where you can look back, think about your next stage of life, and continue your journey. We welcome to campus those who have been on the journey with our soon to be former students, to celebrate with us, and most importantly to celebrate them.

Component two is brief and it is about being welcomed. Now that I have completed my fifth month at Guilford, I can clearly admit that it is a place where people ensure that others are welcomed. The Guilford spirit is one that is about inclusiveness and engagement. We have some of the deepest and most reflective thinkers throughout our campus and extended community that I have met — and much of the common message that we share, is that Guilford is a place for all people. This is a place where we really want people who are with us, for whatever period of time that they are here, to know that they are being welcomed.

The third component builds off of our two earlier notions of welcoming and being welcomed. This message is aimed at the parents and guardians who join us today. Over the past several years, your children have grown intellectually, they have developed a different sense of responsibility to themselves, to their families and communities, and to a broader society. They have gained experiences that will help them have even more productive lives. They have even learned to do their own laundry... They have become more responsible… And will be able to go and start a career. Ultimately, they are further along their paths to be less dependent on you and less dependent on your finances. In a little while they will have their degrees and can live their lives and … earn their own money.  You parents get to begin to have your lives back … so we build on themes of welcoming and being welcomed with this simple notion … you are welcome.

Finally, and probably for me and all of my colleagues who have come to know the graduates, we extend the deepest sense of appreciation to you, and to them. YOU have encouraged your children, your friends, your mentees, or whoever that person is who you are here to support. You have encouraged them to be with us. We have learned alongside them. You have certainly been patient with us as we have gone through some turbulent times. You also believed that regardless of the situations we have experienced: a global pandemic, masks or no masks, social distancing, programmatic and administrative changes at Guilford — that enough people at Guilford really cared deeply for the well-being of your student. And for that we offer the deepest and most heartfelt thank-you.

To the students, we are so proud of you! To the families and friends, let’s continue this partnership for the on-going success of each of the members of the Class of 2022.


We hoped to have Dr. Mandy Cohen, the former Secretary of North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services, as our Commencement speaker. In a phone call with me yesterday, she shared that despite being vaccinated and boosted, and taking other precautions, she contracted COVID-19 this week. 

Dr. Cohen is very disappointed to not be able to be here today. I’m pleased to report that she says she has mild symptoms and is recovering at home. She commented that while contracting COVID was unexpected, it should be a reminder to us all to continue to be cautious and careful for the sake of ourselves and others.

In the coming days we’ll make arrangements with Dr. Cohen to record her planned remarks and distribute them to our graduates and families and others in the Guilford community. Also, at some point soon we’ll schedule an opportunity for this Public Health leader to receive her honorary degree and make a visit to campus.