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Suzanne Marnocha, director of the College of Nursing’s traditional undergraduate program, delivered the commencement address at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh’s afternoon commencement ceremony May 16.

Here is a transcript of her speech:

“Graduating seniors, families and friends, Chancellor Wells, Interim Provost Hartman, honored colleagues and guests: Thank you for being here today to share the great joy of our graduates who have earned degrees from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh! Thank you also for the opportunity to speak with you.

“I am proud to be a registered nurse representing our great faculty. I teach in the College of Nursing, which opened its doors in 1966. Today we are proud to be graduating our 5,000th Bachelor of Science in Nursing student, Megan Propson.

“As a nurse, I believe in the power of stories. Today, I wish to share a brief story from own life.

“You never know how something you have said or written or done will impact someone else. As I was growing up in my little hometown of Okemos, Mich., I knew something for certain. My big sister, Sharon, was nearly perfect. What can I say? When, as a small child under her care, I would not eat my lunch, she sprinkled dried parsley flakes in my Campbell’s tomato soup and called them little green men so I would ‘eat them up.’

“She planned elaborate parties and even baked my birthday cakes. She was beautiful in her red taffeta dress as she went off to prom with the quarterback of Okemos High School. She was so perfect she even had a cashmere sweater upstairs in her drawer folded with tissue paper.

“She kept her little attic room organized perfectly, so I had to be extremely careful when I snuck up to try on her clothes. It was not until years later she told me she knew I was snooping around and had never yelled at me. She was amazing and wonderful.

“You see, when I was 15, our young mother died, and my sister, Sharon, continued as my role model and mentor. She took excellent care of me even as a difficult teenager. Shortly after the funeral, she had to return to her own life in California, but she left me with a message on a single sheet of white paper.

“The paper contained a drawing of a stick figure representing me with a smiling face. The words said, ‘Be brave, honey. Be happy.’ That little piece of paper has been very important to me and has guided my approach for many years.

“‘Be brave, honey … be happy’ has guided me though my own college exams, breakups with long-forgotten boyfriends, beloved dogs dying, a wonderful marriage with all of it’s complexities, childbirth and concerns with raising our three children, career changes and  difficulties and no doubt more times in the future.

“Those simple words were powerful.

“Even though I have expressed my appreciation in many small ways, my sister cannot possibly grasp how deeply she had supported me and continues to do so to this day. I have become more aware of how my own words and actions can impact others.

“Today I encourage you to reflect upon the remarkable guidance that has urged you to this day, received in abundance from your family, your friends, your teachers, your mentors.

“Today may you also recall how your alma mater, the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, has provided you with enduring words of guidance.

“Today you may do well to reflect upon that one teacher, friend or mentor whose presence has provided you with resources to guide your life.

“Finally, I trust you will move forward in your life, bravely and happily, remembering to direct your words and actions to support others, helping the world to become a better place, one relationship at a time.

“Be brave and be happy!”

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