Teresa Woodruff Delivers 2024 Commencement Address

Dr. Teresa Woodruff Encourages Grads to “Build a Life Lattice” In Commencement Address
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Seth Hurd

June 12, 2024 Academics, Alumni & Friends

Teresa Woodruff speaking on stage during commencement

Olivet commencement speaker Dr. Teresa Woodruff has worn many hats, including patent holder (10 in total) and member of both the National Academy of Inventors and the National Academy of Medicine. On Saturday, May 11th, 2024, the recent Interim President of Michigan State University stepped back into the comfortable and familiar role of Olivet alumna and addressed this year’s graduating class.

Dr. Woodruff emphasized the role of faith and divine blessings in the graduates’ success. “The attribution of your success includes each of you and your tenacity, but it also comes from the praise of God from whom all blessings flow,” she said. She recognized the families, friends, pastors and church communities who supported the graduates throughout their academic journey, underscoring the importance of a strong support system.

In her speech, Dr. Woodruff reflected on her time at Olivet, sharing memories of her roommates and the lasting friendships formed during her college years. She encouraged the graduates to cherish their connections and acknowledge the contributions of their friends and faculty. “The faculty and academic staff of Olivet Nazarene University are the best in the nation, and they care for each of you,” she said, prompting the graduates to thank their mentors.

Dr. Woodruff, a 1985 graduate of Olivet, shared her own academic and professional achievements, including her work in reproductive science and the creation of the field of Oncofertility, a medical field that merges oncology and fertility to provide reproductive options for young cancer patients. She recounted her journey from Olivet to earning a Ph.D. at Northwestern University and working at Genentech, where she made significant contributions in medical research.

One of the key lessons Dr. Woodruff imparted was the importance of asking the right questions and challenging the status quo. She shared a pivotal moment in her career when she questioned the absence of women in a clinical trial, leading to policy changes at the National Institutes of Health. “Graduates, rise and shine, and when you do, ask the right questions and change the world,” she urged.

Dr. Woodruff also highlighted the significance of letting one’s light shine brightly. She recalled the support she received from the Olivet community during a tragic mass shooting at Michigan State University and encouraged the graduates to be a light in the world, especially in times of darkness. “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine,” she sang, reinforcing her message of positivity and impact.

In her concluding remarks, Dr. Woodruff advised the graduates to think beyond climbing a career ladder and instead focus on building a life lattice—a network of connections that provide stability and support. “A career ladder is a lonely place. Instead, think about creating a lattice. Connections help move you along a mission path,” she said.

Dr. Woodruff’s speech was met with enthusiastic applause, leaving the graduates inspired and ready to embark on their next journey. She concluded with a heartfelt blessing, wishing the graduates success and divine guidance as they move forward. “May you rise and shine and give God the glory. May you let your light shine brightly in this world that so urgently needs you. Congratulations, graduates,” she said.

Watch the entire 2024 Commencement ceremony here.

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Seth Hurd

Seth Hurd (’06, ’08 MOL, ’12 M. Hist) is the founder of Manx Solutions. He lives in St. Louis, MO with his wife Amanda, and daughters Ava and Emery.

Student on main campus wearing pink sweater and holding water bottle.

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