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Fort Lewis College graduates encouraged to “take the sharp end of the rope”

DURANGO, CO - Whalen Gymnasium at Fort Lewis College was filled with graduates and their families for Winter Commencement 2014 on December 20. More than 200 FLC graduates celebrated the successful completion of their undergraduate academic careers alongside their professors and College administration.

Delivering the Commencement Address was Dr. Kenny Miller, assistant professor of chemistry and the 2014-15 FLC Alice Admire Outstanding Teaching Award winner.

Dr. Miller began by sharing a few of his experiences rock climbing. He lived for years in areas with no great mountains, so when he came to Colorado he was eager to try his hand at climbing. 

In the beginning, he would let others lead the way up a rock face. In a climb, the leader is faced with great risks, thus the climbing term for going first is “taking the sharp end of the rope.” In time, Dr. Miller was able to learn and build confidence in his climbing abilities, and that led to him taking the sharp end of the rope at times.

He drew an analogy between rock climbing and the lives of the graduates to this point, explaining that parents, teachers, and others who are more experienced have led the way. As graduates, that was about to change.

“What we’ve tried to do is teach you the basics that you’ll need to live the life you want to lead, to accomplish the enormous goals that you want to accomplish, to climb metaphorical imposing cliffs and mountains that lay in your future,” he said. “In a way, you’ve spent your entire life on belay, relatively safely tied into the rope while your mentors have taught you how to lead. From this day forward, you’re on the sharp end of the rope.”

Dr. Miller suggested that many of the assembled graduates probably wondered if they would make it to graduation at all when they were freshmen. Some probably thought that completing the work to earn a degree was an impossible mountain ahead of them. Now, he told them, they were at the summit.

“What kinds of things have you seen from the academic summits you’ve reached at Fort Lewis College?” he asked. “And how will that experience help you when you descend from the mesa to whatever life you choose to lead?”

“You’re ready to take the sharp end of the rope.” Dr. Miller concluded. “Everyone in this room is excited to watch you climb those mountains and to watch you lead.”

Congratulations Class of 2014!


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