University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown
Pitt-Johnstown Seal

Address by Student Government Association President Jacob Shirk

Jacob Shirk
Jacob Shirk '11
Student Government Association President

Good afternoon.  On behalf of the student body, it gives me great pleasure to offer congratulations to the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown graduating class of 2011.  First of all, I would like to thank President Spectar, the students, and the Pitt-Johnstown community for affording me the opportunity to speak today.

I come here today not to lecture you, but rather to speak as one of you and to talk about some of the experiences we have all shared together.  And so here we are, at graduation, after a few short or long years of attendance at an exceptional University.  It feels like just yesterday we were moving into the freshman dorms wondering what the next few years were going to offer.  After finding some friends across the hall and figuring out your roommate, it wasn’t long until the stress of our first ever college exams kicked in, and for most of us it was probably the night before.  It didn’t take long to realize how different this chapter of our life was going to be in comparison to anything we had ever experienced before.  We were finally on our own.  No parents around to make sure you were getting your work done.  No one hounding you to stay out of trouble, except the campus police, of course.  The time had come for us to take responsibility for our actions and to make our own decisions.  I cannot begin to cover the lessons we have learned in our years at Pitt-Johnstown and the personal growth that all of us has encountered.  Whether it was studying for those dreaded midterm exams, preparing for that class presentation, sitting through that long night class, or deciding the plans for Thursday night, we all had to do it together.  I’m certain that life-long friendships have been created and the memories from our college years will be the best of our lives.  

Pitt-Johnstown is the framework upon which we have laid the foundation for the rest of our lives.  The incredible education earned from this university is the beginning to a successful career and life.  We will use the knowledge gained in the classroom to create new and innovative procedures in the medical field.  Some of us will go on to produce new business plans or run a Fortune Five Hundred company.  We have the tools to design and construct the architecture of the future with skyscrapers that are energy self-efficient.  Others have the skills to make it big as a Hollywood actor or writer and to produce entertainment for future generations.  We are perfectly suited to achieve whatever we set our minds to in this time of innovation and discovery, with new possibilities arising faster than the world has ever seen before.  The reason I love-Pitt-Johnstown, is the fact that I learned so much beyond the scope of what I was studying in Krebs and Biddle and E&S, and that is what is required for someone to be successful in this dynamic world. 

I hope that we all look back on our years here and smile.  It’s crazy to think about but I look forward to the day when I’m the old grandfather telling my grandkids all the fun and crazy stories from my college experience.  I would like to take advantage of the opportunity I’ve been given to speak today to tell all of you to take chances in life.  Don’t hesitate to step off the beaten path out of fear of humiliation or failure.  The only times in my life that I have been disappointed are when I look back at something and say I should have just done it and not to be afraid of what might have happened if it didn’t work out exactly as planned.  One of the most influential statements I’ve ever heard is that when someone keeps being placed in an awkward situation, what was considered to be awkward or unknown now becomes regular.  I ask that when we leave here today, we do not avoid unfamiliar territory because if we don’t take chances, we’ll never know what laughs might have been shared, what friendships could have been formed, or what inventions could have been discovered.  We have all been very blessed to have been given such an amazing life and the opportunity to be graduating from such an esteemed university. 

So, in parting, once again I congratulate all of those gathered here today for such a fine accomplishment.  Let this day be a mere stepping stone for the next achievement that we wish to pursue. Thank you, all, for the best four years of my life.