Thank You

by Teevrat Garg ’ 10

My Lafayette experience has been rich and rewarding, and I have everyone in this room to thank for that. Your selflessness and commitment to this institution are inspiring and life-changing for my peers and me.

ConnectingWhen I first met Arlina DeNardo, it was at the pre-orientation for international students. She said that I didn’t need a financial reason to stop by the financial aid office. Arlina and I since developed a strong personal relationship that goes beyond her being the director of financial aid. She and I have had several conversations about the merits and demerits of certain programs, including what forms of aid are most effective. The relationship exemplifi es the nature of learning at Lafayette—it isn’t constrained to a classroom. Learning happens in the most incredible places.

I have a lot of people to thank for where I am today, graduating from an elite liberal arts college with an incredible four years behind me. I thank my parents every single day, my professors, my friends, all those people in my life who mean something to me, but for what do I thank all of you? I guess I could say, “thank you for the check,” but that would not do justice to my gratitude. Instead, let me say this.

Thank you for the moment I received a letter four years ago that said I didn’t have to run into insurmountable debt to learn. Thank you for the chance to join a competitive speech and debate team and for so many other great chances. I learned the art of rapid exchange of ideas while furthering an argument, an invaluable skill. In 2009, the speech team claimed the national championship in our division, and all of us had two things in common: we loved to talk (as I am sure you can tell) and we were on academic scholarships or financial aid. I hope you can tell from my passion how much even this one part of Lafayette has meant to me. Similarly, thank you for the time I decided to start playing the piano—a quarter-credit class I found the time to take because I had a scholarship that didn’t require me to work full-time. Even though I wasn’t very good, the hours I spent playing were challenging and blissful.

Thank you for making it possible for me to have engaging discussions on life, ethics, and values. My high school education had a pre-disposition toward the specialized and technical. Math was the biggest area of study, and history was only a co-curricular interest. As I embraced Lafayette, I began to cherish the liberal arts ideal—the fi rm belief that an individual must be well-rounded. In a time when liberal arts education is being questioned, Lafayette is reaffirming its stand that we are not just workers in an economy, but also members of our societies and citizens of humanity. Thank you for fostering in me a sense of belonging. I have never believed more strongly in an institution and its ability to inspire good in the world than I do in my alma mater. This college helped define me—something to which I can never attribute a dollar amount. The sense of belonging I feel is in part due to your desire to put Lafayette students at the top of your priority list, and it has inspired me and 29 other members of the class of 2010 to lead the Senior Class Fund Drive. The funds will provide stipends for students serving unpaid internships over the summer and pay for a memorial for four peers we have lost—Marina Petersen ’10, Jeremy Saxe ’09, Adam Lambert ’08, and Christopher Reynoso ’11.

ConnectingThank you for inspiring me to be responsible for my actions. Your presence here, your support, and your determination are generating a sense of civic duty and reinforcing that we, as students, are part of a bigger community—a world we can positively affect. This winter, 10 of us traveled to Madagascar to establish a mentoring program where Lafayette students will guide Malagasy students through the American college application process, addressing their traditional underrepresentation in the international student pool, not just at Lafayette but across the spectrum of colleges and universities in the United States.

Students like me have found our niches and cultivated our talents because we believe we are all Lafayette stakeholders. I have owned my undergraduate experiences, both educational and social, through the speech and debate team, the mathematics department, the economics department. But the true celebration of this evening lies in recognizing that you are all not just shareholders in an institution or the values of liberal learning it seeks to inspire, but are partners in and facilitators of an idea, of a way of life marked by generosity and the spirit that defines the basis of a more enlightened, responsible, and fair society.

Lafayette College has always set a high bar for itself and for its students and faculty. My Lafayette experience is just one of the many indicators of the success the College has had in transforming students’ lives by providing an environment of intellectual curiosity that drives us to excel. Congratulations on being part of that transformative process.

Teevrat Garg, of Gurgaon, India, graduated summa cum laude with a B.S. in mathematics and an A.B. with a major in economics and business. He gave these remarks March 26 at the biennial Scholarship Recognition Dinner celebrating the ties that connect the alumni, parents, and friends who create scholarships at Lafayette and the students who benefi t from their generosity.