USD holds final summer commencement July 30 Day: â�?�?You must understand the worldâ�?�? By David Lias
Plain Talk John A. Day, professor emeritus of art at The University of South Dakota, admitted that he had attended many university graduation ceremonies that unfortunately featured speakers whose talks dragged on and on. Thursday evening, July 30, Day told the 262 members of USD's summer graduating class that he promised not to do that. Day delivered a somewhat brief message to the during the university's 80th summer commencement ceremony, held in the DakotaDome. The evening marked a milestone in the history of the university. Thursday's event was the last summer commencement that will be held on the campus. USD had been the only state university to hold three commencements each year. University officials have decided to follow other South Dakota Regental institutions from now on and award degrees during two commencement exercises held in May and December. "In keeping with the long line of America's professors who have preceded me as summer commencement speakers, I have offered to be both reflective and to profess," Day said. "I believe that human beings have an innate thirst for understanding themselves and the world for which learning is essential." He told the graduates that he has been fortunate to indulge his beliefs within an academic community. "Despite being an administrator, my first priority was always teaching," Day said. "Teaching what I had learned, both formally and informally, powerfully influenced how I did my job as a director and chair and dean and whatever." Day is the former director of the University Art Galleries and curator of USD's distinguished Oscar Howe Collection. Before joining the university faculty in 1976, he began his teaching career at Mount Marty College in Yankton. In addition to serving as chair of the Department of Art, he was also dean of the College of Fine Arts from 1980 to 2004. Day also served as USD vice president for academic affairs during the 1984-85 school year. "I believe that the university, like every other subculture, is informative, is a part of the real world, and always has been," he said. "Having said this, I understand you will be entering a different world than mine. "You will be caught up in the hectic pace of seemingly ever-accelerating changes," Day told the graduates, "with dramatic new tools, increasing bureaucracy, potentially isolating self-consciousness. However, I believe the old song, that the more things change, the more they stay the same." Humanity, for all of its complexity, he said, is fundamentally uniform across race, ethnicity, geography, and time. "I believe that what drives us is the ying and yang, the push and pull between individual and community, and that negotiating this divide is the serious work of a serious life," Day said. "I believe that understanding yourself is admittedly is the work of a lifetime. We must be open to learning about ourselves with as objective a mind as possible." One must consider every observation, every characterization, every criticism, regardless of source, he said. He encouraged the graduates to be active members of their communities, and to engage with others. "It's limiting if it is not done with an openness to different perspectives. Recognize what others represent, and the infinite opportunity to learn, and understand both yourself and the world. "To be true to yourself, you must understand yourself," Day said. "To understand yourself, you must understand the world."