In his address at Hamilton College’s commencement, Thomas Tull ’92, founder, chairman and CEO of Legendary Pictures, urged the Class of 2013 to “listen to your inner compass and make being a good citizen and a good person part of how you measure yourself and how you think about success.”
Tull advised, “Go after your dreams and goals and aspirations. If you find yourself in graduate school — I don’t care if it’s at Harvard Medical School, Columbia Law School, whatever it might be — if it starts to feel like you’re doing that for somebody else, stop. It doesn’t matter if you decide that you want to be the head of a major corporation or you want to go to a small town to be a school teacher to impart what you’ve learned at Hamilton. Do those things” said Tull, “because as far as I know we get one trip around the track.”
Tull gave the address at Hamilton’s commencement on Sunday, May 26, in the Margaret Bundy Scott Field House where 491 students received bachelor’s degrees. He was awarded an honorary degree, along with fashion designer Oscar de la Renta; the Rev. Joseph McShane, S.J. president of Fordham University; and Xinran, a Chinese radio journalist and best-selling author.
Tull began his speech recognizing “the unbelievable dedication of the armed forces, the men and women that make us all feel safe and that have given the ultimate sacrifice” as Commencement took place on Memorial Day weekend.
A native of Binghamton, N.Y., Tull transferred to Hamilton. “One of the things that hit me like a ton of bricks right away was not only the intellect of the students and the professors — but all of a sudden I felt like I was in the ecosystem of the possible,” recalled Tull. “Things that hadn’t occurred to me before suddenly were all over and in front of me. The professors challenged you to think bigger and broader.
“Hamilton truly was the beginning for me, to open up to the possibilities and to start to think bigger, and to try to be thoughtful and well-rounded,” Tull remarked.
Tull noted that over the years many commencement speakers have told the graduating class “’you can do anything. Anything you set your mind to you can do.’ That’s fine. I am here to tell you today I am absolute living breathing proof that you can come through anywhere, sit on this exact stage and accomplish things that — if they haven’t occurred to you yet maybe they will in the future — but I am telling you that all those things are absolutely true.”
He suggested to the graduates, “If you find that momentum is taking you to a place where you’re trying to meet the expectations of friends or families or it just doesn’t feel natural, just from my experience, that is not the right thing to do. Follow exactly what you think it is that you should do and pursue it with vigor,” he urged.
Tull concluded, “There are going to be plenty of moments in your life that you feel that things aren’t fair, that maybe you’ve been slighted, maybe circumstances were stacked against you. Don’t ever be a victim. We always like to say ‘point the thumb, not the finger’ and always ask yourself ‘what could I have done differently, what could I have done to put myself in this situation,’ so that you can always learn something and think back and grow from that.”
Susannah Parkin, (Arlington, Ma.), recipient of the James Soper Merrill Prize as selected by Hamilton’s faculty, also addressed her classmates. She said, “My first message is something that we have all heard before… It is important to do things in spite of our fear … Hamilton has presented us with challenges…We had to make new friends, choose a major, and meet exceedingly high academic demands. These challenges were scary…But this fear is not important.
“What is important is that we did leave home; we made new friends; we chose a major; and we met the demands. Today is proof that we succeeded in spite of our fear,” she remarked.
“My second message is a slight revision of the first. I believe that we should do things in spite of our fear, but I also believe that sometimes we have to go even further,” said Parkin “We have to do things because we are afraid… Facing our fear with a sense of purpose makes us stronger because it puts us in control of the fear.
“We need to let the fear fuel us and do things because we are afraid of them,” Parkin concluded.
Also speaking at commencement was Valedictorian Jeremy Adelman (Clarks Summit, Pa.), who shared lessons he learned at Hamilton.