Linda Fisher Thornton, Faculty Commencement Speaker

May 10, 2022

SPCS Commencement

Linda Fisher Thornton was nominated by SPCS students as the Itzkowitz Family Distinguished Adjunct Faculty Award recipient for 2022

Linda Fisher Thornton, adjunct associate professor of human resource management and CEO of Leading in Context, was nominated by students to receive the Itzkowitz Family Distinguished Adjunct Faculty Award at the School of Professional & Continuing Studies 2022 Commencement Exercises on May 7, 2022. 

As award winner, Thornton received the opportunity to address graduating students during the ceremony. In her speech, reproduced below, Thornton challenged students to embrace the challenges they face and overcome in order to share what they learn with others to make their journeys easier.

Video Address

Starts at Provost Legro’s introduction of Thornton as speaker.

Commencement Address

President Hallock, Provost Legro, Dean Wilson, distinguished guests, colleagues, friends, families, and 2022 graduates, it is an honor to be with you on this important day.

Three days before these remarks were due to the University, I scrapped what I had written and started over. I was being asked to impart inspiring wisdom to graduates in three minutes or less, and since my courses take students into the realms of paradox and systems thinking, this three-minute challenge was clearly going to be one of those life tests we call ‘growth opportunities.

At any given time, we’re all in the process of learning and muddling through our various challenges. The idea of this lifelong process of learning is to become the best possible version of ourselves, despite the growth opportunities we face along the way. These growth opportunities may seem like speed bumps between us and our happiness, but another way to think about them is as opportunities to become more capable and confident over time.

Growth opportunities sometimes show up disguised as problems that seem impossible to solve. Solving these impossible problems might require working through our shortcomings or overcoming a mental block and thinking about the problem a different way. We don’t usually recognize the situation as a growth opportunity until we stop trying so hard to fix the problem and realize that the necessary fix involves changing something within ourselves.

It is human nature to want our accomplishments to be easy, but if we went through life without these speed bumps, we might not appreciate the good things in our lives as fully, and we might not grow toward our best selves, or achieve our potential.

When we embrace our challenges and meet them head on, we can choose to share what we have learned with others to ease their journeys, making a positive difference in their lives.

I spent a lot of my life thinking I was ‘doing life wrong’ because it wasn’t easy. I kept asking myself “When is it going to get easier?” I had been dealing with a continual barrage of speed bumps, and after studying human development in graduate school, and reflecting on it over time, I realized that “When is it going to get easier?” was the wrong question.

Let’s step back for a moment and look at this from another angle. What if life is not supposed to be easy? If the point is to grow, after all, we need challenges along the way for that to happen. If we’re supposed to share what we learn with others to make their journeys easier, then adversity better prepares us for that role. Looking through the lens of human development, our many challenges are an important part of the journey.

Graduates, I commend you for what you’ve accomplished and the obstacles you’ve overcome to get to this moment. As you navigate life after graduation, remember to embrace your speed bumps with as much grace as you can, and share what you learn to make the journey easier for others.

Congratulations.

What if life is not supposed to be easy? If the point is to grow, after all, we need challenges along the way for that to happen. If we’re supposed to share what we learn with others to make their journeys easier, then adversity better prepares us for that role.
Linda Fisher Thornton

SPCS Commencement Speaker

Biographical Summary

Linda Fisher Thornton is an adjunct associate professor of human resource management. She is currently CEO of Leading in Context LLC, working with Fortune 500 companies, universities, and organizations across industries to help leaders see the nuances of ethical responsibility clearly through multiple lenses to make ethical decisions. Linda has taught numerous courses since joining the SPCS faculty, including Applied Ethics, Communication in Leadership, and Conflict Management and Group Dynamics. She is the author of 7 Lenses: Learning the Principles and Practices of Ethical Leadership, which is used by businesses and universities in North America, Europe, Asia, and Oceania to teach ethical thinking and leadership.