Friday, May 16, 2008


Originally uploaded by gr8what
I was asked to speak at the Cabrillo Scholarship Awards Ceremony this year. What a fun thing!

Here is what I said:

I first became part of the Cabrillo community in the mid-1980’s, when I joined the Cabrillo Symphonic Chorus. I’ve stayed around ever since, taking classes and singing in various choirs.

One of the great things about singing in a choir is the opportunity to travel: Join a choir – see the world. In 1994, my mother, Peggy Phillips, went with the Symphonic Chorus for a trip to Eastern Europe. My mother was not a singer, but she sat in the audience beaming at us for every concert as we sang our way through the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, and Hungary. She made a lot of good friends on that tour, and always enjoyed visiting with them whenever she came out to see me.

When she died six years later, I wanted to do something to honor her memory. She had been a second grade teacher for many years in West Texas, and she and my dad raised four kids all of whom graduated from college. Because she was an educator and because she had such a good time with us on tour, I decided to establish the Peggy Phillips Vocal Arts Scholarship in her honor at Cabrillo.

I am fortunate to still be singing with the choral program, so I usually know the students who have received my mom’s scholarship. And that gives me a lot of pleasure. And you know, my mom would have loved this today. She would have loved knowing that some student’s life was going to be a little easier, that some student might be able to stay in college, because of a scholarship in her honor. And if you knew my mom, you know she would have loved being the center of attention here today.

I don’t know what you think Cabrillo students are like, but in my experience, I can tell you they are a broad and varied bunch. I have known absolutely brilliant students, and talented ones, and really funny ones. I have watched so many of them become adults. Some of these kids have solid, intact families supporting them all the way, and others… not so much.

But what they do have at Cabrillo is a place that is committed to helping them along their way, that can allow them to experience the world in a new, larger way, a place where they can find a passion that will last them the rest of their lives. Whether it is their Cabrillo teacher calling a colleague at Indiana University to get her student accepted, or whether it is the Women’s Educational Success program providing a bus pass and money for books to a single mother in the nursing program, Cabrillo is a place where bridges are built. Bridges between students and teachers, between the campus and the community, and bridges between the past and the future.

My mom’s scholarship isn’t the only one I have contributed to and that I listen for every year. I also listen for the Betsy McCarty Nursing Scholarship, which was established to thank a wonderful colleague of mine who was retiring after many years in the County Health Department. Betsy is still around, and her scholarship will be around even longer to help a whole string of students enter the profession that she loved so much and was so very good at.

Each year, I sit out there in the stands and listen for the Rosmarie Greiner Peace Scholarship. I studied Aikido with Rosemarie over 25 years ago. She was a committed peace activist, and it delights me no end to know that her work is being carried on at Cabrillo long after her untimely death.

And I sit and listen for the Stan MacGregor Scholarship, because I sang with Stan for many years, and a kinder, funnier, more brilliant open-hearted man you cannot imagine. To hear his name announced is to remember how much I loved him and what fun we had together.

So I sit here every year and I wait to find out which music student is getting my mom’s scholarship, and I find out which nursing student gets Betsy’s scholarship, and what lucky fellow gets Stan’s scholarship, and what earnest soul gets Rosmarie’s. Because I loved all of these people, and all of these people loved life (and Betsy still does), and they all loved learning, and they would all be so happy to know that there is a part of them still here and still making a difference in the world.

Cabrillo is very good about thanking the people who donate to the college, and I appreciate their thanks. But, here is the truth. Us donors? We are the lucky ones in this story. Not because we get to sit in the shade, although I am really grateful for that today.

We are lucky because we get to honor with a scholarship someone we love who made a difference in our lives. And, in doing that, we also get to make a difference in the life of a student we may not even know.

We get to acknowledge them for the good work they have done already, and we let them know how much we believe in them and the good work they will do.

I can think of nowhere I would rather be, and no one I would rather be with, and no greater gift than this.

Thank you

1 comment:

Susie House said...

Just reading your speech had me in tears! I can only imagine what it would have been like to hear such loving words in person. You're a gift my dear, one that just keeps on giving!

Susie House