Monday, October 12, 2009

Student Speech at SPPF Recognition Luncheon

Every Fall, the Syracuse Pulp and Paper Foundation  ( honors those students receiving scholarships to study Paper Engineering and Paper Science at SUNY-ESF (  This year's luncheon was held on Thursday, 8 October 2009.  The luncheon brings together students, faculty, staff, and most importantly representatives from the companies that support the students through the foundation. 

The highlight of the luncheon are the student speakers.  One of the speakers, Matt Ali, is a graduating senior in the Paper Engineering program.  He gave an excellent talk of his experiences during his undergraduate career in the Department of Paper and Bioprocess Engineering.  He has graciously allowed his speech to be reproduced below.

The Final Speech
by Matt Ali

As I began writing this speech, I had a lot of things run through my mind as what to write about. I tried parroting some of the better speeches I have ever heard, so here goes Four score and seven years ago, I had a dream that is wasn’t what my country could do for me, but what I could do for my country. Pending any legal ramifications I didn’t think that would work out, so I decided to use this opportunity to maximize my efficiency and tell everyone, everything they need to know before I leave.

To my colleges, Congratulations!, look around you, you are in a prestigious institution with a high caliber faculty that expect nothing but the best out of their students. This makes for one of the finest educations, that is truly second to none. The people sitting next to you are some of the most powerful and influential people within our industry, and it is no accident that most of them are graduates from the very program you are attending. Feel privileged, you are in good company.

To the freshman in the crowd hold on tight, because you are in for the ride of your life. Take the next few years of your life for what they are, many of you will have good times and bad, Try new things, meet new people learn and grow. Live your life so that when you reflect on the past you will have nothing but admiration for what you have done and how far you have come. It is best to regret an action, rather than an in-action.

To those of us who are graduating. KUDOS! We did it. We are about to being a new chapter in our lives. But take a moment and a few deep breaths and appreciate those around you. In a few months the relationships you have with your peers, your friends and even your family will change. As your life and career will take you away, there life will take them. Love them for who they are, tell them what they mean to you, you may not get a second chance. Don’t’ be afraid, in your life you’ll have to get dirty, you’ll make mistakes, but know that whatever mistakes you make others have made them, picked up the pieces and carried on, Whatever woes you have lived through embrace them, they will make you stronger and they will teach you. Understand life is about fear; those that are brave will make a life worthy to be remembered. In regards to your profession life, fight a good fight, fight evil, but first understand evil, and never be so naïve as to believe that you and your actions couldn’t be the evil. Understand your own humanity and never make a decision that could rob you of it.

To my employers, to the lucky few that has been gracious enough to give me a job. Just this past summer I was privileged enough to work for Albany International. In retrospect I can say now that I have truly valued my time with them. I was given an excellent opportunity to expand not only my abilities in engineering but also my understanding of what my boss John Hawes would call the Cadillac of corrugator belts. But seriously despite what ever preconceived notions I might have had of how interns are treated there, I can say unequivocally that I was welcomed with open arms even in a rough time and was treated not only as an equal but as a friend. It is that kinship that puts the longevity into a company like Albany and the reason why they have been so successful (aside from the corrugators).

To the Faculty, during my time at ESF I have had the esteemed privilege of learning under some of the most brilliant people in the world. I have been continually taken aback at the depth and breadth of their knowledge, for not only the subjects being presented but for any subject that is discussed. To preface Sir Isaac Newton I truly stood upon the shoulders of giants. There is no possible way to convey the depths of my gratitude for all you have given me. I once spoke with a teacher and asked him, why out of all of the careers he could have pursued, why for go fame and fortune to be a teacher. With a serious tone he told me, if he could just make a difference in one student’s life, then all the sacrifice would have been worth it. I understand now that his sentiment is not unique, and for what it’s worth to you, I am that student.

I couldn’t possibly end this speech without giving special thanks to the SPPF office (Linda & Deb); in retrospect I do not know how I would have finished this program without them. I’m not much for analogies but, it was as though I was adrift at sea and they became the compass I used to find my way. They are to the college and to the students truly worth their weight in gold.

Finally, to everyone that I have meet, befriended, worked with, worked for or learned from I have but one final thing to say to all of you. For every experience that I have gotten to be a part of, to every sleepless night I have endured, to every lesson that I have sat through and has now become a part of me, I say to all of you truly from the bottom of my heart:

Thank You

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