UT College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences News

Valedictorian Speech: Ellen Dzierzak, BSPS ‘14

Ellen DzierzakEach year, the valedictorians of the B.S. in Pharmaceutical Sciences and Doctor of Pharmacy graduating classes are invited to speak at commencement. Please enjoy excerpts of the speech given by Ellen Dzierzak, BSPS ‘14.

Some of my earliest memories involve being in the swimming pool. I remember the “swimmies” my parents placed around my arms so I wouldn’t sink. They always worked and made me comfortable enough to be in the pool as a child. So that’s where I grew up – in the pool. My passion grew for the sport of swimming watching Amanda Beard and Michael Phelps swim in the 2004 Olympics.

Just like I got hooked on swimming, we all became interested in pharmacy in different ways. Mine began when a representative from the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences came to explain the field to my high school chemistry class.

At the beginning of our freshman year, I came to the UT campus enthusiastic to start a new chapter in my life that would involve prescriptions and pools. I learned very quickly that becoming a part of the Toledo swim team was not going to be a dip in the kiddie pool. I was going to have to train harder than I had ever trained before to be capable of competing at the collegiate level.

After training 20 hours a week for five months, there was no better feeling than having all my hard work pay off by winning a Mid-American Conference swimming title.

The same way beginning to practice with the college swim team tested my passion for swimming, there have been a lot of things that have challenged our interest in the pharmaceutical field. Whether it was the pre-pharmacy course load, taking the organic chemistry standardized final, studying for Dr. Oyarce’s exams, or the duration of P1 school days, we have all faced many academic obstacles that require us to frequently and repeatedly dive into the text books.

With the support of our families, friends, professors, and advisors we have been able to successfully compete in this college by taking challenging courses and exams for the past four years. These supporters have been the catalysts and cheerleaders of our success, and we owe them untold gratitude.

Receiving the Bachelor degree in Pharmaceutical Science is like winning our final championship at one of the best pharmaceutical colleges in America. Coach Murray, our strength and conditioning coach has always said, “It’s a great day to be a Rocket!”

But what lies ahead?

All of a sudden, we realize the “swimmies” of our childhood are gone and we sink or swim through our own power.

This is where the prescription comes in.

Sanjay Gupta, neurosurgeon and CNN correspondent and keynote speaker at the University of Michigan’s 2012 graduation, offered this sage advice. He said:

You know what makes your heart swift. You know what makes your breath catch your throat. You know what makes your chest tight with anticipation. Go get that!

But what if you don’t know what makes your heart swift, your breath catch, your chest tight with anticipation? The discipline of an excellent education at The University of Toledo has helped us identify them. Real life experience will teach us. Educated people know how to pursue that which we don’t know. Don’t settle for anything less!

Today we have the distinction of joining more than 100,000 UT alumni. Wherever we go – to grad school, a job in our field, a long-anticipated trip – we are beneficiaries of the UT Motto: “Guide to the Present, Moulder of the Future.” Let us live up to that wisdom.


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is the Scientific Editor and College Communicator for The University of Toledo College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. She is a triple alumna of The University of Toledo with master's degrees in English and Education and a graduate certificate in Patient Advocacy.
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