Spring Honors Convocation Address by Shawn T. Beaman, M.D.

by Public Relations | Apr 28, 2017

Saint Vincent College Class of 1998
Chief Anesthesiologist at UPMC Presbyterian
Associate Professor of Anesthesiology
at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
Wednesday, April 26, 2017
Saint Vincent Basilica
Saint Vincent College
Latrobe, Pennsylvania

Good afternoon.  I am honored by Archabbot Douglas’ and Brother Norman’s invitation to speak with you today in this beautiful and holy place among true friends at my alma mater during such an important celebration of the achievements of the class of 2017.  I am truly humbled by the idea I could possibly offer the graduating class anything further than what this esteemed and dedicated faculty already has.

Before I begin, I would like to offer my sincerest congratulations to the students and faculty who received honors today, to all the students who will graduate in the next few weeks, to their parents, family, friends who supported them and to the faculty who taught them. The dedication, hard work and long hours literally invested over years, that have resulted in this celebration today, are not only the students’, but also their parents’, family members’, and friends’ as well as that of each and every Saint Vincent faculty and staff member. The teaching, learning and collaboration that takes place on this campus, that is supported personally by each and every faculty and staff member, has been remarkable since 1846, and remains remarkable today.

I would like to briefly discuss what I believe are three of the many lifelong benefits of the education you’ve worked so hard to earn here at Saint Vincent College. These particular benefits transcend the academic. They are principles that have gently permeated your learning here at SVC in subtle ways.  Now, having sat in these very pews 19 years ago during my own class Honors Convocation, and being a teacher and lifelong student myself, I certainly in no way mean to minimize the importance of each of your academic achievements; they are great, and were celebrated during today’s convocation and will culminate at your upcoming commencement.

However, as I head into my 20th year after leaving this wonderful place and reflect upon the powerful impact my time here has had upon my own life and career, it is these benefits, beyond the academic, that continue to come into clearer focus. Despite not being listed in the course descriptions, these aspects of your education are in no way accidental; in fact, they’ve been intentionally woven into your curriculum. The principles I’ll point out are a clear benefit of attending this Catholic, Benedictine, liberal arts college.

The first is that of service. Since the minute you arrived on this campus as freshmen and the orientation committee personally carried all of your many belongings you thought you couldn’t live without at college into Benny, you have been surrounded by a community of service to one another. I know all of you have benefited from the kind assistance, tutoring and advice of a trusted faculty member. Upperclassmen within your major have told you the real story about navigating the course work and have tutored you late, late into the night. Without the kind service and caring of the faculty present today and of my friends late at night in the dorm, I certainly would not be standing before you in what my 10-year-old daughter described last night as  a “Smurfy dress.”

Members of the class of 2017, you have participated in Sports Friendship Day, SVC Wraps for Kids, befriended students in the Bearcats B.E.S.T. Program, provided human service at local agencies and prisons in Westmoreland County and traveled the world to Haiti, Guatemala, Mexico, Brazil and Taiwan to serve. And of course, there is no greater example of service to others than that of the Benedictine monks who have dedicated their entire lives to God, their ministry here at Saint Vincent and each other. A culture of service to others envelops Saint Vincent.

Unfortunately, you will not find such a culture of service in every workplace, graduate school or professional school that you next enter. I challenge you to bring the rich culture of service here at SVC with you to your next destination after graduation and further into your eventual career, no matter what it is.

I happen to have a career and vocation as a physician in a field traditionally rooted in the service of others. I work in an environment overflowing with expert healthcare professionals caring for the most acutely sick and injured patients in our region and beyond. Sadly, even in this environment, occasionally it is evident that service to others is not always the primary motivation of those with whom I am working.  However, I can tell you with great confidence it is the doctor or nurse who is primarily motivated by service to others who is most sought after, respected, successful and nourished by their daily work. There is a Chinese proverb that I believe aptly describes the value of service to others, “If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help someone.”

Such a dedication to service is not only possible in the traditional helping professions such as education, healthcare and religious work. Service to others is possible in every career and in every workplace, every day. It may simply take the form of a kind word to someone you know who is struggling, taking the time to orient a new colleague or going the extra mile to truly support your client beyond the contract. Further, service is not mutually exclusive to profit, personal advancement or organizational success but rather, its friend and counterpart.

Secondly, over your time here at Saint Vincent, class of 2017, you have been subtly immersed into an environment of hard work and discipline.  “Ora et labora” is espoused by the Rule of Saint Benedict, “prayer and work.” And there is a lot of “labora” happening at Saint Vincent, we’ll get to the “ora”…  It is hard work and discipline that founded Saint Vincent, allowed you to succeed to commencement and that will support your success for the rest of your careers.

The idea that, “genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration” is attributed to Thomas Edison, and I believe to some degree holds true in every workplace in America.   Simply, knowing how to do something must be eventually translated into actually doing it. Already you’ve known very intelligent friends who have not achieved their true potential because of inaction, indifference or apathy.

I think you’ll be able to relate to an example from my own field of anesthesiology that I preach to my residents regularly.  When choosing an anesthesiologist for my mother, it may be initially surprising to you that I didn’t select on the basis of the doctor’s depth of physiologic or pharmacologic knowledge or reputation of their medical school or residency program.  I chose a colleague anesthesiologist based upon their reliability to be present, on-time, engaged, dedicated to the care of my mother over their own interests, and whom I trusted would do the right thing when no one else was watching.  It is these essential personal characteristics of hard work, reliability, discipline, organization and trustworthiness that advance careers in every industry when they are powerfully coupled with what you’ve achieved academically.

Finally, the opportunity each of you have had to witness true faith here at Saint Vincent is capable of supporting you for a lifetime. Many of you have come to a greater understanding of your Catholic beliefs while here at Saint Vincent studying and living in this impressively faith-filled community. Others of you have grown in your own faith other than Catholicism, by living in a community that celebrates these beliefs and the inherent goodness in all religions.  Still others of you have been really introduced to true faith for the first time in your lives here at Saint Vincent.  And, this faith may not even be particularly religious for all of you.

The simple faith in the goodness of others and the love and friendship they can offer is present around every corner at Saint Vincent. I believe it is faith that will support all of your future endeavors, particularly when you inevitably face future challenges academically, professionally and personally.

In conclusion, congratulations class of 2017, I challenge you to go forth from Saint Vincent relying upon all that you’ve gained from Saint Vincent including the powerful education you have received in service, hard work and discipline and faith.




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