Tonight is a very special evening for each of our graduates and their families and friends.
Mustangs, you have taken such unique paths in getting to this great achievement that we celebrate this evening.
However, for one of our engineering Master’s degree graduates, his path has been nothing short of miraculous.
And given the special season we find ourselves in, it seems appropriate to share his journey with all of you here to remind us of how life affirming the pursuit of knowledge can be.
Jerrold Dash is an accomplished individual. At 34 years of age, he has already attained two Masters degrees and will be granted a third tonight in systems engineering from the SMU School of Engineering.
Jerrold is currently a staff systems engineer with Lockheed martin Aeronautics and is celebrating tonight with his lovely wife Rhonda, two beautiful daughters – Reagan and Ravyn, and of course his extended family and friends.
Jerrold’s journey to this evening begins in February of 2006. It was in this month, less than two years ago, that he and his family learned that he was suffering from stage four broncho-alveoli carcinoma, a form of lung cancer that occasionally afflicts non-smokers.
What a devastating shock to everyone – you see Jerrold was the picture of health, an active fit non-smoker who was a gifted scholarship football player in college. Simply put, no one saw this coming.
Yet, this terrible diagnosis did not stop Jerrold – against the odds and struggling to deal with the constant miserable chemotherapy, Jerrold continued to work on his degree and to move forward with his life.
Jerrold went on the transplant list for a bilateral lung transplant at Stanford Medical School, one of the few places in the world that would attempt such a complex surgery. He moved to the bay area awaiting the call that could save his life – and this too did not stop Jerrold from pursuing his degree. In fact, during the course of his illness, Jerrold said “If I could work, take classes, exercise and receive the support of my family, I would be dead emotionally. The idle time would kill me as I would just be going through the motions of living.”
And then he got the call that a pair of lungs was found.
So tonight, breathing the fresh cool air of December, Jerrold and his family celebrate the gift of life and the passion for learning.
Against immeasurable odds, no because of immeasurable odds - Jerrold, you are an inspiration to all of us and a reminder of the sacrifices we have all made in our lives in the pursuit of knowledge.
Geoffery Orsak, Ph D. Dean of the SMU School of Engineering