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06.24.2013

Adam Bowling (BSEH ’13) delivers remarks to fellow graduates

May is always a busy time in Athens. I am disappointed I am unable to attend all of the graduation festivities that take place, but I often receive updates about them from colleagues on campus.

For instance, Kate O’Reilly, the director of development for the College of Public Health, reached out last month to share an update about the College of Public Health Graduation Celebration. She praised student speaker Adam Bowling (BSEH ’13), who delivered a powerful speech to his fellow graduates.

Instead of attempting to summarize Bowling’s address, I will let you enjoy his words in their original form:

Good afternoon. I am extremely humbled and excited to speak on behalf of the 2013 graduates of the College of Public Health.

First, I would like to say thank you to the faculty and staff who have guided us through these past few years. I would also like to say a big thank you to my family, who has been a constant source of encouragement, especially during the trials of organic chemistry. I know I’m probably not the only one. To my fellow graduates: Graduation! We made it! Though it hasn’t been easy to get here.

They say that the average college student will change their major at least 3 times and I know that I and many others were certainly in that group, but I’m so glad that I found public health.  As I look back on my four years, I now consider that choice one of the best decisions I made while at UGA.

One thing about public health that appealed to me was the opportunity to get out and see the world. Athens is a special place, but it wasn’t until I traveled away from here that I began to see the larger reach of this university and that no matter where I went, UGA went with me.

During the summer of 2010, I studied abroad in China to examine the use of traditional Chinese medicines and their health care system. One day, I set out to explore the tourist sites and went to climb the Great Wall of China. I was wearing a Georgia T-shirt and surprisingly ran into an alum from the class of ’97. She was working in Beijing and stopped me to wish me good luck and Go Dawgs!

That following winter, I participated in the study abroad program in Australia. While studying climate change and strategies for sustainable development, a friend and I decided to complete the climb to the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.  The whole thing felt crazy and we were both nervously awaiting the safety briefing to begin when a family of four in our climbing group started to suddenly sing “Glory, Glory to Old Georgia.” It turns out the parents were both Georgia alumni and we all made the climb together.  It seemed that wherever I went, there was a Georgia grad.

I’m sure that every graduate here has a story or two about their internship. It is the capstone experience of a Public Health degree and ties together academic and practical experience. From August to December of the past year, I worked in D.C. at the White House Council on Environmental Quality. My team focused on federal sustainability efforts within the government. This was an incredible learning experience with a steep learning curve and I was very thankful to meet a Georgia grad on another team who helped me to get settled. It seems UGA alumni truly are everywhere.

There is a Kurt Vonnegut quote that says “True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country.” That may be so, but having spent the past four years among this group of incredible graduates, I am not afraid. I have seen the strength of my peers, their varied interests, and their passion, and I am confident and excited for our future.

In one of my favorite movies, Dead Poets Society, Robin Williams plays a new teacher at a stuffy private school. On the first day, instead of drilling all the students on Latin or history, he calls them all into the hall to gaze on the photos of past students, of alumni. He says to them, “Lean in real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you… Carpe Diem, seize the day… make your lives extraordinary.” Graduates, this is what I wish for all of us as we now become those alumni. That we will go on to do great things all around the world. Seize the day. Make your lives extraordinary.  Congratulations 2013 graduates! God Bless and Go Dawgs!

Bowling is a National Merit Scholar and recipient of the UGA Charter Scholarship and the Zell Miller Scholarship. He received the John J. Sheuring Award for academic excellence and campus involvement, and was recognized at UGA’s Honors Day for being in the top five percent of his class.

As Bowling mentioned during his address, there are UGA alumni living in all corners of the world. As Bowling heads to Stanford Law School this fall, he will become one of those alumni who ‘calls the Dawgs” or sings a UGA cheer when he sees a visitor on campus in a UGA T-shirt or takes a class with a fellow grad.

Thank you for all that you did on campus, Adam, and for sending your fellow College of Public Health graduates into the “real world” with these words. Best of luck as you head to California this fall!

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