George A. Vinyard ’71
"Scientia et Sapientia + Oliver Sacks + Yogi Berra"
May 1, 2016
Graduates, Parents, Family Members. . . Faculty, Staff, and Friends of Illinois Wesleyan
Greetings from the Trustees and Alumni. On their behalf I say to each of the Graduates
-- Congratulations, Welcome and Thank You.
Congratulations for your individual achievements. Welcome to the fellowship of Illinois
Wesleyan Alumni. And Thank You for your contributions to the University community.
To Parents, Family, Friends, Faculty and Staff -- we share your pride in the accomplishments
of these young people, and we join them in Thanking You for all you have done to help
them on their way to this important occasion.
As an institution of higher learning we strive to help our students develop the intellectual
and moral capacity to think deeply about the important things in life and to live
in a manner that is consistent with the best values as reflected in our motto -- Scientia
et Sapientia -- generally translated as “Knowledge and Wisdom”.
Knowledge implies the acquisition of true information and understanding, grounded
in objective observation and logical reasoning. Wisdom has been defined as the capacity
to exercise sound judgment and act rightly in matters of life and conduct -- choosing
proper means to achieve good ends. This requires personal engagement that goes far
beyond the search for objective truth and reaches deeper into the realm of what it
means to be part of humanity in all its historical, social, esthetic, moral and spiritual
For a concrete example of what this means, consider the life and works of Oliver Sacks,
the famous neurologist and author who died this past year. Sacks’ path to wisdom was
based on his intensely detailed observations of his patients and his boundless curiosity
about other people and things.
The author of books such as Awakenings, and The Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat, he said this about individuality:
“If we wish to know about a [person], we ask 'what is his [or her] . . . real, inmost
story?'--for each of us is a . . . story . . . a singular narrative. . . . physiologically,
we are not so different from each other; historically, as narratives--we are each
of us unique.”
In describing his work, Sacks said:
“I always wanted to get people’s stories and access to their lives. I feel I’m at
the interface of biography and biology, person and person-hood.”
And he also remarked:
“In examining disease, we gain wisdom about anatomy and physiology and biology. In
examining the person with disease, we gain wisdom about life.”
Notably, Sacks made the effort to really get to know Temple Grandin from whom he took
the title of his book An Anthropologist on Mars, which has been credited with contributing significantly to our understanding of
autism and the unique talents and abilities of people on the spectrum.
If every individual is unique as Sacks says, there is wisdom to be derived from each
of the innumerable people, living and dead, whose stories are accessible to us.
Witness another sage wordsmith who passed away recently -- the great Yogi Berra, whose
deceptively simple-sounding “Yogi-isms” included words that seem quite appropriate
for an occasion like this:
"When you come to a fork in the road, take it."
In your time here on campus we trust that you not only developed your intellects but
also cultivated the kind of curiosity, perceptiveness and expressiveness that will
serve you well as you seek wisdom in the stories of others and choose the paths to
your own singular narratives.
May you warmly Remember and Honor your University and your fellow Alumni as part of
May you always think of us as your family and this campus as your home. Please return
often. You will always be welcome here -- and wherever Titans gather. Thank you.