Spring is a time of commencement, new beginnings, renewal and fresh hope. It’s a season reflected in graduation ceremonies as students everywhere — including St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital — finish one chapter of their lives to begin another.
Students in the St. Jude Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences are finishing up the first year of this inaugural program, and kindergartners at the St. Jude School Program by Chili’s are getting ready to wear their miniature robes and mortarboards.
This year I’m reminded of Maggie, who in the spring of 2010 was a Rhodes College student preparing to work in a St. Jude lab for the summer. It was a dream job and a new chapter that she was eager to begin. But a persistent pain in her leg would take her on a different path, yet lead her to the same place — St. Jude — where she would undergo treatment for the bone cancer Ewing sarcoma.
With the help of St. Jude doctors, scientists and our millions of supporters around the country, Maggie’s cancer went into remission, and she returned to college. And she eventually found her way back to a research lab through the St. Jude Summer Plus program.
And this month, more than six years cancer-free, she’ll don her own mortarboard and robe once again as she crosses the stage to graduate from the Mayo Clinic School of Medicine. All of us at ALSAC and St. Jude couldn’t be prouder.
It is because of our supporters and donors that such success stories are possible and that renewal truly can happen. The smiles on the faces of our kindergarten graduates are beautiful and full of hope. And watching in the audience with smiles and tears on their faces are the families who turned to St. Jude in their darkest hours so that their children could find hope and promise in the springtime of their lives.
May is also when we at ALSAC welcome our academic interns for the summer. One of my favorite events each year is welcoming this group of students to the St. Jude campus, where their world will truly be expanded.
At a time in our history when young people are more focused than ever, and working harder than ever to make a change for their generation and the world, I am humbled to stand in front of our interns and say, “Welcome to the ALSAC/St. Jude family. Let’s make a difference together.”
With thoughts of spring come images of digging in the dirt and sowing seeds, and we will soon turn shovelfuls of dirt for something new to rise from the ground — a $412 million research building on the St. Jude campus. The new facility has an eye toward the long-term, with benefits and success stories to be harvested for years to come through research that will one day lead to more cures, more graduations and more seasons spent with family.
I hope you all have a blessed and fruitful spring, and thank you for the greatest commencement gift you could give the kids of St. Jude: hope.