Hooding Ceremony - May 24, 2002

134th Cornell University Commencement

Comments by Ronald C. Riis, DVM, MS, DACVO

Carl J. Norden Distinguished Teacher 2002

Honored Graduates of Veterinary Medicine Class of 2002, Honored Family and Friends, Faculty, Alumni, and Staff. It is my pleasure to be before you today and to be part of your graduating program and part of your knowledge base is a dream come true for me. Upon my graduation, I wanted to give back the wonderful gift of my education.

To achieve your Doctor of Veterinary Medicine you committed yourselves to obligations that required excellence beyond most people's dreams. When you began your goal of becoming a veterinarian, the achievement must have seemed arduous - to say the least:

You sacrificed,

you excelled,

you achieved,

and you met the challenges.

We honor all these in each and everyone of you. Each of you have special memories or unusual hurdles which you had to clear in order to accomplish your goals. These are known to only a few but close friends and family - whom we thank. But there is more . . . we would be more grateful if we only knew how much of what we take for granted is planned by God. By becoming a veterinarian, you are given the greatest profession imaginable. God made you as you are in order to use you as He planned.

I have a few life secrets I want to share . . .

"Life is like a game of tennis, the player who serves well seldom loses!"

The tests are not over for you. Each case presented to you is a test. You have studied for these tests and your foundation built by your education will aid you. Now the process of building upon that foundation starts. It is up to you how you build upon this foundation. Build three homes for yourself: one personal home, one professional home, and most importantly a spiritual home which will carry you through all life's challenges. Know that God is at work within you helping you do what he wants. We would be more grateful for our accomplishments if we acknowledge how much of what we take for granted is planned by God. The blueprint of your achievements will go on and on.

It is good to have money and the things money can buy, but it is good also to check up once in awhile to make sure you haven't lost the things money can't buy. In your practice, each day you will see new situations, a case that doesn't match your computer memory or textbook descriptions; they are difficult cases. You will think, you will try - and you will cry.

Teddy Roosevelt said: "Do what you can, with what you have, where you are" . . .

This fits veterinary medicine all too often. When dealing with your clients, keep in mind a scripture verse:

"I am my neighbor's (clients) Bible. He reads me when we meet . . . He may not even know my name yet he is reading me."

People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care; again, people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care. This is so important!

"I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation . . . I can do everything through him who gives me strength." Philippians 4:12-13

"For the joy of the Lord is your strength." Nehemiah 8:10

A personal story about "Ditch Digging":

When I finished my internship, I had a wife and two small girls. I was deeply in debt and making $6,000.00 Per year. I felt a life insurance policy was needed in case anything happened to me it would help my wife financially. The policy required a good physical including a cardiac evaluation. The physical examination began with a history which the physician asked my profession. When he heard I was a veterinarian, he said he envied me and with empathy knew the mental exercise it took - but later on gave me a diagnosis that I didn't do very well on the cardiac master 2 step. He strongly advised a physical exercise program to match the daily mental exercise.

He said "dig a ditch every day"??? My response was - what, how, is it possible? I know I should. He said I should to survive. After trying tennis, racquetball, basketball, football (all requiring someone else and much organization of my schedule), I realized I had to do something alone and on short notice and limited time.

Jogging and biking fit the schedule. The physician and I are still practicing after all these years and enjoying it thanks to a balance. I highly recommend this balance, and I know many of you already do this - great!

Class of 2002 - you are special!!

I have heard frm many faculty who believe that this class is exceptionally and uniquely talented. They would consider it a privilege to practice veterinary medicine with you.

Thank you for giving me the Norden Award, I am deeply grateful.

My prayer for you is that: You overflow more and more with love for others and at the same time keep on growing in spiritual and medical knowledge.

Good Luck, God Bless.