Jun 5, 2019 | Atlanta, GA
On May 31, Rafael L. Bras, provost and executive vice president for Academic Affairs, delivered the keynote address at the Universidad del Sagrado Corazón in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The ceremony marked the 80th commencement exercise for the university.
During his address, Bras, a native Puerto Rican, recalled feelings of fear and doubt about leaving the island 50 years ago to study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Calling it the “biggest decision of my life,” Bras explained that his journey was only possible because of great sacrifices made by his parents and a personal capacity to work and face disappointments.
“I learned the important thing is not the obstacle but the objective, and that there are always several ways to reach a goal,” said Bras.
Bras shared stories of his unexpected professional path and his belief that life is a series of accidents and opportunities for all individuals.
“I had many opportunities during the decades that came after my studies and I discovered that sometimes the answer had to be ‘no’ or ‘maybe later,’” he said. “It is important to know yourself and have the confidence to accept decisions and their consequences.”
Bras spoke about the lessons learned through his leadership journey, including risk, uncertainty, and on the characteristics of a great leader — vision, innovation, community-mindedness, generosity, and a commitment to serve the public good. In his remarks, Bras revered the hard work and dedication of the graduates whose educational journey was forever altered in the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Michael in late 2017.
In a matter of weeks after the hurricanes hit and caused historic damage to Puerto Rico, the university and its students, faculty, and staff were offering aid and services to the community, all while continuing their studies under the shade of trees, gazebos, and tents.
“You already have the characteristics of great leaders and understand what it is to suffer and persevere,” he said. “You are a testament to the human capacity to do good and face unexpected and unimaginable conditions. You have seen the worst and have the strength to deal with future challenges… and work for the good of all.”
During the ceremony, Bras was also presented with the degree of doctor honoris causa in Education by Universidad del Sagrado Corazón President Gilberto J. Marxuach Torrós.
Universidad del Sagrado Corazón was founded in 1935. Since then, the university has conferred 25,000 associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees.