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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

URI turf management student selected as commencement speaker

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KINGSTON, R.I. -- May 13, 2005 -- Christopher Jablonski will be the University of Rhode Island’s student commencement speaker this year. He will graduate this month with a degree in environmental horticulture /turf management, which is the study of the culture and use of plants that enhance human and natural environments.

“I grew up playing golf,” explained Jablonski. “I would play golf and see people on the course, and wonder what they were doing. That peaked my interest in golf course landscape management. I never wanted to sit in an office. In this field, there is something new and exciting every day.”

“I decided to compete for the commencement speaker spot because I thought it should be a positive, but short speech, ” he said.

The speech is an analogy, relating life to getting a driver’s license, an experience nearly everyone can relate to. He says that the last four years at URI were like having a learner’s permit. Receiving a diploma is getting a driver’s license. Commencement is the day a person sees the freedom of the open road ahead, all the possibilities life has in store.

The Monroe, N.Y. native was actively involved in campus life as an orientation leader, a URI tour guide, the chief operations officer of the Student Senate, a URI 101 mentor, and part of the Science and Math Investigative Learning Experiences (SMILE) program. He was also a student admissions representative, a member of the Student Alumni Association and a volunteer at Peace Dale Elementary School.

“All the opportunities exist here,” said Jablonski.

Jablonski even had time to found the fraternity Sigma Phi Epsilon. “The ideal of Sig Ep is to change the stereotype of a guy in a fraternity,” he said. “It was a good way to promote my ideals of what a fraternity should be. We are the kind of guys women could bring home to their mother.”

The 22-year-old is one of four children of Walter and Eileen Jablonski. Walter is retired from the Federal Reserve Bank and Eileen is a secretary. His oldest sister, who is a physical therapist, just had her first child, and his older brother is a pilot for Coca-Cola. His younger sister will be a freshman at the University of North Carolina Greensboro this fall.

Jablonski decided to attend URI when he came on Welcome Day as a senior in high school. “I was overwhelmed with the students’ enthusiasm, even the ones helping park the cars,” he recalled. “URI was near the beaches and it also had a good turf management program. It was an overall good fit for me.”

By accomplishing so much during his time here at URI, Jablonski learned an important life lesson. “Depending on how much effort you put into something, you will get that back exponentially,” he said.

Jablonksi already has a job lined up for after graduation. “I will be the second assistant at the Royce Brook Golf Club in New Jersey,” he said.

Commencement Speech
Chris Jablonski ’05

Let me start off by saying that I am not an English or communication studies major. Rather, the degree I’m getting today is far from anything to do with public speaking—Environmental Horticulture and Turfgrass Management. (Pause) Thanks for laughing; I start work on June 1st.

Four years ago, I can remember sitting on another stage. It was at my high school graduation in Monroe, New York. I can recall thinking that there was no way I could succeed at URI. I was shy and scared.

The summer passed quickly and before I knew it, I had moved into Burnside and was on my own. I didn’t know a soul. But everyone around me seemed to know each other. And I was just some New Yorker surrounded by these people who spoke funny. I was almost ready to call my parents and tell them to come get me. In a last ditch effort to save myself and my parents a lot of money, I turned to the two people I actually recognized at URI—two student orientation leaders --Danielle Lachance and Chris Walsh--who had helped me out during freshmen orientation. I told them I was a wreck and had no idea what was going on. They told me to relax and took me out to lunch. They explained to me that college is a lot like driving a car for the first time. Some students hit the highway, hop in the fast lane, and speed off directly to their future.

Other students weave in and out, constantly changing lanes and majors. Some become hitchhikers, grabbing a ride without a sense of personal direction. Others like me, pull over, too scared to see what the road ahead holds. I was still apprehensive, but then Danielle said something. She told me: “There is a spark in you that I can see and everyone can too. You need to find it. ” Well, some thing took that day, and I have been a changed and happy man ever since.

So here I am standing on different stage about to get my academic driver’s license. This time I’m ready to drive confidently toward that highway of “life.”

Class of 2005, you are all going to receive your academic license today. Fasten your seatbelts! Choose your own routes! May your roads all be smooth, and filled with happiness and success. Drive safely and smartly (be sure to check your rearview mirrors for the Narragansett police.) And don’t forget to pull over sometimes to reflect on all the beautiful things that surround you. And lastly, may your hearts always stay warm with the memories of the journey we shared at this wonderful University. Thank you.