Investiture Address: Ryan Chapman Th’19

June 8, 2019

Good morning! And welcome. My name is Ryan Chapman, and I am an elder member of the graduating class. If you asked me twenty years ago if I would ever graduate from an Ivy League school, I likely would have replied, “What’s an Ivy League School?” So, it’s an honor to speak to you today. I want to begin by congratulating my fellow graduates. Your accomplishments in the last 2, 4, and sometimes 6 or 7 years is staggering. As a graduate who is definitely older and supposedly wiser, I’ll try to impart some wisdom as we prepare for our next endeavor. So here they are: my two cents.

The first: “Pick a penny up.” Pennies often find their way to forgotten places: the ground, couch cushions, your laundry machine. And although undervalued and forgotten, many are familiar with the phrase, “See a penny, pick it up. All day long, you’ll have good luck.” So we do. We see pennies in forgotten places and pick them up. Unfortunately like pennies, many in our communities are forgotten and undervalued. While we admirably devoted our time and energy preparing for great engineering challenges, these individuals for whatever set of reasons have not had the same opportunities. So, as you approach and eventually overcome each challenge, always remember these individuals are likely far more critical to your success than any other group. They do jobs you wouldn’t want, for less money than you’d accept, and receive less praise than deserved. So my advice: when you meet someone in your next chapter who fits this description, be sure to recognize that person. Go out of your way to get to know them and thank them. Go out of your way to remind them, they are a valuable member of your community. Don’t let them feel forgotten or undervalued ever again. In other words, just like the penny you picked up, elevate those around you. “Pick a penny up.” Let me rephrase. “Pick each other up.”

My second piece of advice: “Take a penny, leave a penny.” Take a penny, leave a penny is common at convenience stores: A small tray by the cash register for unwanted pennies. So, the next customer who needs a few extra cents to complete their purchase can take a penny from the tray. This is an excellent analogy for our experiences. There are times when you need a little help, and you take a couple pennies. And there are times when you have a little extra to give, so you leave a couple pennies. While we undoubtedly put our blood, sweat, and most definitely tears, in to earning these degrees, during our time at Dartmouth we have largely benefited by taking additional pennies. When printing final papers, John in the copy room helped make the perfect version: We took a penny. When the frequency and time domains made absolutely no sense, Professor Hansen reminded us of Bode and his plots and Fourier and his transforms: We took a penny. When homesick, our families were there in the form of care packages, late night phone calls, and notes of encouragement: Again, we took a penny. And when we met our toughest challenges and achieved each milestone, our friends picked us up and subsequently celebrated our accomplishments: We took a penny. Now it’s on us to return the favor and leave a penny. I’m not talking about leaving a penny here and there. I’m talking about leaving a penny every chance you can. In conversation, leave a penny by being present. When stressed, leave a penny by remaining patient. When our schedules are full and someone needs help, leave a penny by finding time. And when the world seems full of anger and hate, leave a penny by showing compassion and love. “Take a penny, leave a penny.” Again, let me rephrase to something the engineers will more easily understand. “Be a source, not a sink.”

Undoubtedly, Dartmouth and Thayer School of Engineering have given us all many invaluable things. They gave me the greatest friendships I’ll ever know. They showed me the kind of colleague, professor, and leader I can be. They brought me my wife. Without a doubt, they prepared us as engineers to be the most capable and faithful for the most responsible positions and the most difficult service. And, in the final moments before walking across this stage, they will hopefully always remind you to pick each other up and to be a source, not a sink.

To my fellow graduates, congratulations. And to everyone here, thank you.