Muhlenberg Commencement Speaker Tells Grads to ‘Find Your Right’

Honorary degree recipient Robert Loeffler ’70 draws upon a life-changing aid trip to Haiti that inspired him to apply to Doctors Without Borders.

By: Meghan Kita  Friday, May 18, 2018 01:22 PM

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On a cool, cloudy morning on Muhlenberg’s College Green, Robert Loeffler ’70 credited the College’s liberal arts curriculum—specifically the humanities courses he took en route to his biology degree—for sparking his interest in humanitarian work. However, he said, that interest took a back burner as he followed the “linear course” expected of orthopedic surgery and sports medicine specialists like himself: med school, internship, residency and then private practice.

As he told the more than 500 soon-to-be graduates before him during Muhlenberg’s 170th Commencement, it sometimes takes a jolt to stop doing what’s easy and to start doing what you feel, deep down, is important. For him, that jolt came in the form of a trip to Haiti to assist survivors of the 2010 earthquake, which inspired him to apply to Doctors Without Borders.

“I then realized that, despite the many years since I left here, I gradually made a circle and came back and was doing what I thought I wanted to do years before,” Loeffler said in his Commencement address. “I was becoming the kind of doctor I’d hoped to be.”

“Remember, what is right is often forgotten by what is convenient,” he continued. “I urge you to go out and find your right, have a great day today and then wake up and try to change the world.”

Later, student speaker Gabrielle Adamo ’18, who graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in business administration and theatre, spoke of the inside-jokey “life lessons” she learned during her four years living on the Muhlenberg campus. For example, waiting in line at Pizza Rustica inside Wood Dining Commons taught her perseverance; holding a door for whoever was behind her—“even though you are 15 feet away from them”—taught her the importance of kindness.

“On behalf of the class of 2018, thank you Muhlenberg for making us better people who will go forth and do bigger and better things in a world that needs just that,” Adamo concluded. “Take life’s seemingly simple everyday moments, find the lesson within and learn from them, always.”

Muhlenberg College President John I. Williams, Jr. concluded the celebration by congratulating the students before him on their transformation from students to alumni.

“We will miss you in the daily life of the campus, but you remain part of the Muhlenberg Network always, no matter where you are,” he said. “We hope that you will remain active, engaged members of this global community for the rest of your lives.”

Two members of the class of 2018 were co-valedictorians with perfect 4.0 GPAs: Weston Conner, a Dana Scholar who graduated with a bachelor of arts in music and anthropology with a minor in English, and Alexandra Tendler, an English and finance major. The salutatorian honor was also a two-way tie between Gianna Barres, an RJ Fellow who graduated with a bachelor of science in biochemistry and math, and Shari Bodofsky, a Muhlenberg Scholar who graduated with a bachelor of science in biology with a minor in studio art. Jake Gordon, a business administration major and political science minor, and Hayley Peterson, a history major, received Alumni Association Future Alumni Leader Awards

Two faculty members also received awards: Troy Dwyer, associate professor of theatre, earned the Paul C. Empie ’29 Memorial Award for Excellence in Teaching and Jeremy Teissere, Stanley Road Professor of Neuroscience, earned the Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Foundation Distinguished Teaching Award.

In addition to Loeffler, honorary degree recipients included composer Morten Johannes Lauridsen, public policy thought leader Heather C. McGhee and nonprofit founder Elissa Montanti.