Valedictory Speakers

Rittersbacher, Harald

Guten Abend-viele Grüße nach Mannheim-in die Pfalz-und besonders an meine Eltern.

Don’t worry — the rest will be in English.

In the spring of 1983, I took my first college course: Psychology 1000. But after one semester, I realized that at the time my passion for tennis was stronger. So I left college, and pursued a career as a tennis professional. When I stopped playing, I was still passionate about tennis, and I became a coach on the pro tour. However, I never lost interest in academia. And three years ago my desire to go back to college became so strong, that I had to do something about it. But where should I go? I had travelled all over the world during my career, and one of the places I fell in love with, was Hawaii, especially during the German winter. So I thought, why not combine the two and get a degree in Hawaii.

When I searched for schools, among others, Hawaii Pacific University came up. HPU, a small, multicultural school, with international orientation, welcoming non-traditional, adult students, and they had a good tennis program. I contacted the tennis coach and shortly after, I got my student visa.

When I started in the summer of 2009, I didn’t know what to expect. I was a bit nervous. Would it be strange to be an adult student? Would my brain still work on college level? I hadn’t studied or taken exams for a long time. Driven by my passion for life-long learning, I was determined to take on any obstacle that would arise. My first course at HPU was History World Cultures. I loved it. Straight-away I knew, this time I was ready for college. I absorbed all the material and studying, was actually fun.

During my entire time at HPU, my professors were great. They did the best thing, they could have done for me. They treated me just like any other student, even though I am older than many of you.

My fellow students: you guys were amazing! You made me feel like being one of you, which was the biggest compliment you could have given me.

HPU is so diverse and worldly that there is, not only room for non-traditional students, it is actually normal to have them. At HPU, I found family, my ohana in the psychology department and there, especially in the psychology club. I am fortunate, because I found a second family in HPU’s tennis program, where I work as an assistant coach.

My college experience has been wonderful. Although, I must admit that dating was a bit of a disaster. My college experience was different. I have never been to Moose’s; only once to Senor Frogs and trust me, you don’t want to hear that story. This time around, I skipped the parties, I had been there, done that. This time, I came to college to learn.

Do I have regrets? Well, yes, I should have taken that public speaking class! By the way, that class should be mandatory for all students! Yes, there were obstacles, but my passion for learning helped me to overcome them.

Today, we all move on to a new chapter in our lives. Some of us go to graduate school, others start working. I will stay at HPU, as assistant coach and start looking at some graduate programs. Whatever you do, always keep in mind, if you are passionate about what you do, you will be more resilient to adversity and therefore more likely to be successful.

And most of all, life will be much more fun. Thank you!