Valedictory Speakers

Perez-Andujar, Maria "Gadea"

Good evening President Wright, Board of Trustees, faculty and staff, family and friends, guests and fellow graduates.
Sometimes I wonder how I ended up becoming a marine biologist because my first experience with water wasn’t a very good one. My mom threw me in the Mediterranean Sea when I was a toddler to see what would happen. No floaties, nothing. That’s how I learned how to swim! Surprisingly, ever since then I felt happy in the water, spent my summers in it. I didn’t talk much as a kid and neither did the ocean, so we became very good friends. I remember I always wanted to dive as deep as I could to try to touch the bottom and I was jealous of my brother because he could always go deeper than me. So then I bought some fins, and I finally could go as deep as he went.

Growing up I wanted to know everything about the ocean so I decided to come to a country where everything is possible. No matter who you are or where you come from. I came to a university where they put me on a boat on my freshmen semester, where I got to do hands-on work before I even turned 18 and where professors cared about each student individually. At HPU I worked as hard as I could and all my efforts were rewarded. At times it was really hard to be away from home and the workload would seem impossible to deal with. But my professors always found a way of cheering me and other students up. It was as simple as a quick encouraging comment from Dr. Grundmanis, or an amazing Captain James Cook story from Dr. Culliney, or even a soccer game with Dr. Horgen, and I was back on track working as hard as I could. So thank you to all the professors that spent time with me, that had the patience and offered the support I needed in difficult moments.

Growing up my father taught me how spectacular nature was and my mother taught me to appreciate its beauty. From both, I learned the need to protect it. So that is my goal: to use everything I learned at this school, everything I learned from my family, my friends and my boyfriend to explore and protect what was here way before us and will be here once we’re all gone. That’s why I’m standing here right now: for loving what I do and trying to be good at it. That’s also what my life has taught me so far: you have to like what you do and do it well, even if that means us biologists won’t end up living in Hawaii Kai…

So, now it’s time for us to prove that we can do it all by ourselves, that we can change the world little by little and make it a better place. We have made it this far, now we can make it anywhere. So congratulations to every single student that’s wearing this gown that you Americans like to wear even though it makes us look like we’re dressed for Halloween! Congratulations for having succeeded and not having to write another 14-page paper again any time soon!

Oh! And as a graduate, I am also open to any job offers!

Thank you