President Tony Frank
October 18, 2013

I want to focus my comments on 2 things tonight: triangles and bricks.

I want to start with the triangle because that shape is the same as the Greek letter Delta and delta has, I think, some connection to what we’re about this evening.

  • Now many symbols in the ancient world took form from observations of the natural world, and there is a school of thought that the triangle took its shape from the alluvial fan that is formed by deposits collecting over time at the mouth of a river.
  • If so, that’s an interesting coincidence because the alluvial fan can, over time, change the course of the river itself.
  • And change is strongly associated with the concept of delta in mathematics and science where it represents a finite increment in a variable or a change in quantity over time.

Your gifts — your generosity — create a delta, make a difference, they change lives.

And make no mistake; creating a delta with your own life is a gift — a great gift, a rare gift.

  • We can all list countless people, some friends, who can only view the world through the rearview mirror, focusing on what was and what might have been, unable to see what can be.
  • And there are many others who cannot look forward without a view clouded by fear and doubt, clouds that again obscure the view of what is possible.

Land Grant universities, by their very nature, have always depended on those who can set cynicism aside and imagine what’s possible.

  • Lincoln set aside the 7 Days battle to democratize education for the future.
  • Our faculty set aside limits when they create new knowledge through their scholarship.
  • And most importantly, our students set aside myriad doubts and risks when they come here to invest in themselves, their abilities and their future.

But the delta, the change, which they will go on to make is only possible because they build upon a foundation.

  • Indeed, the concept of delta measures a difference from a starting point — from a base. That base, that foundation, is what you have helped to lay at this university.

Foundations were important in the early architecture of the ancient world. The concept of the cornerstone, the keystone; these were as significant as the engineering of structures to distribute shared weight in arches, domes and pyramids — and these still fascinate us.

  • But creating building blocks of a routine size, easy to form and easy to transport and capable of sustaining loads, this was radical and revolutionary.
  • The brick.
  • The brick was born around 7500 BC in the Middle East near the Tigris River.
  • The Romans learned to fire brick in kilns to further strengthen it.
  • The brick remains today as an enduring symbol of stability — of things built to last.

This is why we honor you with a brick.

  • The change that you create, your delta, builds a foundation that lasts.
  • Builds a foundation around the cornerstone laid by Lincoln himself.
  • Builds a foundation on which future generations will create their delta.

Now another definition of delta is the element or factor that separates or distinguishes.

  • I like this definition as well, because you, each and every one of you, are our delta: you are what distinguishes us.

You are what allows us to have our own triangle of Pride, Confidence and Hope

Your delta has created a foundation at this university — and we will build upon it to create a bright future.

Thank you for what you’ve done. And thanks for joining us this evening.