Graduation 2018: Keynote speaker Miguel Gómez-Ibáñez

June 8, 2018



Proud families, smiling grads, and a fife-and-drum parade are all part of this year’s inspired 137th commencement ceremony at North Bennet Street School. Over the last one, two, and even three years, they have been honing their skills as carpenters, furniture makers, bookbinders, locksmiths, preservation carpenters, jewelers, piano technicians, and violin makers. Join us in congratulating our 102 graduates and welcoming them to the broader alumni community.

The ceremony was held at a packed Old North Church as we have for many years, just a few block away from NBSS in Boston’s historic North End neighborhood. We honored the 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award winner, Will Neptune CF ’81. This year’s Commencement Speaker was none other than our President Miguel Gómez-Ibáñez CF ’99, as he comes to the end of 12 extremely successful years as head of the School. Miguel shared his insights on his journey from architect to furniture making student to President, and imparted advice for the new graduates as they embark on careers in craft and trade.

View highlights from graduation in the video above, and check out dozens of exciting photos from graduation here. You can also read a full transcript of Miguel’s speech below or watch the full Graduation speeches.

Graduation speaker Miguel Gomez-Ibanez

Miguel Gómez-Ibáñez CF ’99, Graduation Speaker

Congratulations to all of you graduates, your families and your friends.

I have been proud to be the President of this wonderful school for the past 12 years, but this will be my last graduation day in that role. I’d like to share with you this morning some thoughts about what I have learned since coming here, first as a student 22 years ago, and later as President.

First, I have had the privilege to get to know all of you — and not just this graduating class but a dozen graduating classes. I started as President knowing only the Cabinet & Furniture Making program, but over the years I have come to appreciate what a diverse community that you and I have had the privilege to be a part of. In the process I have noticed that each program has its own personality and contributes in its own way to the extraordinary mix that makes this school so great.

Read more of Miguel’s take the personality of each program here.

…So each program is unique, but you add up to an inspiring whole, and there is a lot that you have in common. For one thing, you didn’t come here to try something out, you came here because you knew what you wanted to do and were willing to do whatever it takes to make it happen. You have all worked hard to get here.

I, on the other hand, got here by accident. I had never heard of North Bennet Street School when I came across an exhibition of student work at the Boston Architectural Center on Newbury Street in 1996. It was the 1996 version of the Student & Alumni Exhibit that was recently held at International Place and is now in the Windgate Gallery.

You graduate today with the skills to make a living, but the challenge is to lead a life in which you don’t stop knowing good work from bad, and you approach your mistakes, maybe not joyfully, but with a sense of humor, and with confidence.

At the time I didn’t know that the school had been in Boston‘s North End for 125 years. I knew precious little about woodworking, although I thought I did at the time. But I was sure that I wanted to be able to make the things I saw in that exhibit. I wanted to be that skilled.

It was the competence I saw in the work of students like you that inspired me to leave the career I had always imagined for myself and enroll in the Cabinet & Furniture Making program. I remember a feeling of real freedom at the orientation session on the first day of school. I felt like I had just been given a “Get Out Of Jail Free” card.

I took the commuter rail to school each morning, and in time, the train ride felt like a commute to a monastic community whose values were in many ways the opposite of contemporary society. I still feel that way when I come to work.

Miguel and Marc Margulies, Board President

As a student I spent each day focused on the present moment — not the past or the future as I had been trained to do, and I found that time passed without notice. I’m sure you know what I mean. The longer I worked at a task, the longer I felt I could work. I experienced a growing sense of confidence in myself, not smugness, because the more I learned the more I saw how much I could learn, but a growing understanding of the connection
between my mind and the rest of me.

I found that the lessons I was learning were unlike those I had learned as an architect — they felt deeper and more personal, gained by experience rather than thought. For the first time in my life I went home each day with a sense of accomplishment. I hope you have felt that way as well while you have been here.

Read more about two lessons Miguel learned as a student at NBSS.

…You are about to go out into the alleged “real” world. You will take the skills you have learned in your particular trade and set out to make the life for yourselves that you imagined. But I hope you will also remember the larger lessons and apply them to your personal as well as your professional life. Because some of you may not stay long working at the bench — you may start your own company and spend your time behind a desk, as I have spent my last twelve years. What has kept me grounded during my time here as President is the connection I have maintained with my own shop, making furniture. The time I spend at the bench making things has been essential in keeping me in touch the values I learned here that have become important to me. I hope you keep in touch with them as well.

You graduate today with the skills to make a living, but the challenge is to lead a life in which you don’t stop knowing good work from bad, and you approach your mistakes, maybe not joyfully, but with a sense of humor, and with confidence. And I hope you will leave work each day with a sense of accomplishment.

Watch the full Graduation speeches below, including Miguel, Chair of the Board of Directors Marc Margulies, and Provost Claire Fruitman CF ’96.

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