Proenza’s last commencement speech

President congratulates the 2014 School of Law graduation at UA.


Zaina Salem

President Proenza stands before loved ones to give his last speech to law graduates.

By Zaina Salem, Managing Editor

After 115 commencement speeches in his career, President Luis Proenza gave his last one to the University of Akron law graduates of 2014.

The 90th School of Law commencement was held Sunday May 18 at E.J Thomas Hall.

To begin his speech, Proenza gave three books that influenced him: No Crueler Tyranny by Dorothy Rabinowitz, The Quest for Cosmic Justice by Thomas Sowell, and The Cunning of Unreason by John Dunn. These books approached the concept and importance of perspective, which was the foundation of his speech.

“Perspective is at the core of what you should do or perhaps shouldn’t do. Each of these books illustrates in its own way the importance of seeking fully informed perspectives of whatever issue we may be dealing with,” Proenza said.

Proenza gave an explanation of perspective in terms of human partiality. He described human partiality as the tendency to favor a particular opinion, world view, or even a group of people over all others. Like prejudice, human partiality places blinders on our perspective and gives us tunnel vision. According to Proenza, even though we each develop different points of views, it is beneficial to have multiple perspectives.

Proenza then used perspective in an analogy with his personal experience as a sailor. If you are lost at sea and have a map, the technique of navigational triangulation can be used. Navigational triangulation is like human partiality, Proenza said, because as a rule in geometry, as in life, the more perspective we obtain the closer we are likely to approximate the truth of the matter.

Proenza proceeded in his speech by relaying his mother’s frequent reminder that everything has a price, explaining that in anything we do there is a risk to be taken and a price to pay. We take thousands of risks every day, Proenza explained, even if they are small ones. This presents the possibility of failure or loss, which provokes anxiety and sometimes leads to analysis paralysis, a condition which we are brought to a standstill of an action.

However, Proenza explained that risk and anxiety are two very different conditions. He used an allegorical illustration to portray his point. According to statistics, cigarettes kill more than 440,000 Americans each year, and an automobile kills more than 30,000 people each year. Sharks, however, only kill about two or three people each year, and everyone seems to be afraid of sharks.

“But if you were to shout ‘shark’ at a public beach, everyone would race out of the water, jump into a car, light up a cigarette, and drive home,” Proenza said.

Taking risks is a necessary part of life, according to Proenza, and enables opportunities. Your tolerance to risk predicts your potential

Proenza closed his speech with the perspectives that linked him and his audience.

“Today you complete an important chapter in life, and so do I. Today you celebrate your education and start to a professional career. Today I have given my 116th and final commencement address as president of this university and soon I begin my version of a new career,” Proenza said.

He offered some lighthearted advice to the graduates.

“Well class of 2014, wear sunscreen,” he said. “If I could offer you one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it.”

Besides sunscreen, Proenza’s closing remarks included to remember compliments and forget insults; that you are special, just like everybody else; get plenty of calcium and be kind to your knees–you’ll miss them when they’re gone; and since the planet is not the center of the solar system, the solar system is not the center of the galaxy, the galaxy is not the center of the universe, and astrophysicists assure that the university has no center, you cannot be ‘it.’

“But trust me on sunscreen,” Proenza joked.

Proenza congratulated the School of Law class of 2014 one last time to end his speech, which concluded his last commencement speech in his career.