166 graduating seniors took the stage on June 1 for the Class of 2019 St. Mary’s Academy commencement but it was guest speaker, Mariah Scott, who blew away the crowd with a raw, candid and inspirational speech that will be embedded in the students’ memories for years to come.
Hundreds of guests that included family, friends and supporters nearly filled the Chiles Center at the University of Portland to celebrate the 2019 graduating class. Each year St. Mary’s Academy proudly hosts commencement speakers ranging from innovative, successful, encouraging and empowering individuals somehow tied to St. Mary’s Academy. This year it was Mariah Scott, CEO and President of Skyward, Vice Chairman on the SMA Board of Directors and a past parent of an SMA alumna who spoke to the crowd. “For the last four years I’ve had the honor of walking with the board and having a front row seat for this incredible event. Every year, I am so moved with pride for the students and all you have achieved. Four years ago my daughter was where you are now and today I’m humbled to be speaker your speaker and I’m filled with gratitude that I get to share this moment with you,” Mariah said in her opening.
Throughout her speech, she took the audience through humble beginnings as a teenager growing up in a small town called Tell City in Indiana. “When I graduated I had no idea what my passion was,” said the now leader of a Portland-based team in drone aviation, computer science and engineering.
Mariah attended Carlton College out of high school where she was able to find passion in things like learning Japanese and directing plays. Since college, she has worked in advertising, the opera, semiconductors, digital media, identity services, healthcare IT—and is currently working on connecting drones to wireless networks.
She said although the fields she worked in throughout her life were so different, one thing always remained the same, “I never woke one day knowing my passion and how I was going to change the world.” She emphasized repeatedly to graduates that “it’s okay” if they don’t have it all figured out and that she is “living proof that there are many right paths”.
Mariah also talked about the very moment she was asked to take on the role as President for Skyward and how she immediately had self-doubt and hesitation. “I didn’t think of myself as a leader. I thought of myself as the second, the director behind the scene. I thought the leader could only be the visionary, the lone individual leading the army, that’s not me. But if you look in the mirror and don’t see the next Greta Thunberg, rallying us all to fight climate change, you can still lead. No matter what your calling is, or how many passions you end up pursuing—you can have an impact. We need different types of leaders.”
Her advice to graduates once they set sail after SMA included to always ask themselves three questions: “Does the work matter? What can I learn? And who are the people?” She added “St. Mary’s has given you such a good foundation for serving, for advocating, and for justice. The important thing is that you pick something and try it out.”