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Graduate Students Inspired to Live a Purposeful Life

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Jon Stone

Media Relations Manager

Jon Stone

Robert Smith reminds graduates of the significance of their accomplishments



Robert Smith delivers the Commencement address to graduate students.
Robert Smith delivers the Commencement address to graduate students.

Be purposeful. That was the theme at the University of Denver’s graduate Commencement on Friday evening. In his speech, Robert Smith encouraged the departing graduate students not to be observers or followers, but instead be thinkers and doers.

“I believe there is only one way to approach this daunting task. Be purposeful,” Smith said. “Just a few years ago the trendy advice to give in a commencement speech was to experience many different jobs and industries. That may be good advice for some, but one of the burdens of your advanced degree is that you don’t have this luxury.”

Robert Smith is a fourth-generation Coloradan who grew up in a north Denver community. His father received his undergraduate, masters and doctoral degrees from the University of Denver. Smith is the founder, chairman and CEO of Vista Equity Partners, an investment firm with more than $30 billion in cumulative capital commitments.

Smith talked about the honor of speaking at the same school his father graduated from 45 years ago. Before delivering his address, Smith was awarded an honorary doctorate in business by DU Chancellor Rebecca Chopp. He joined the more than 1,800 graduate students who received their advanced degrees this spring.

“Earning a graduate degree is one of the greatest and most impressive of life’s accomplishments,” Smith said while emphasizing that less than 10 percent of Americans have advanced degrees. Chopp echoed the accomplishments of the outgoing graduates and said now is their time to serve as leaders in our community and the world.

“As we celebrate your incredible success in obtaining this advanced degree, we just ask you to use it always in addressing problems, to create new opportunities, to dedicate your life’s work for the flourishing of all, and most certainly of our planet.”

Before the graduates received their diplomas, Smith made sure they understood that it’s more than just a piece of paper that gets framed.

“It’s actually a binding social contract that calls on you to apply your talents, your intellect, and most of all, your fidelity to truth-finding and truth-telling to all parts of society that need you most,” Smith said. “You owe the world your focus. Be purposeful, be hopeful, be flexible in your views, but stubborn in your values. Contribute your brilliance, your knowledge and your wisdom to the glorious light of truth.”