Skip to main content
Northwestern University

“Get On With Your Dream”

Sheri Phillips Prentiss ’89 delivers poignant speech at Convocation

It was the kind of message any freshly-minted college graduate needed to hear.

Life will undoubtedly toss you disappointments, devastation and seemingly unbearable stress, speaker Sheri Phillips Prentiss ’89 said. But press on, conquer the fear and find joy.

“None of us were made for easy,” Prentiss reminded nearly 1,000 graduates during Weinberg College’s Convocation ceremony June 20 at Ryan Field.

Prentiss was as energetic as she was candid in her remarks to the graduates and several thousand guests. A board-certified physician-turned-author and motivational speaker, she took the podium after introductory remarks by Weinberg College interim dean Mark Ratner.

As a psychology and premedical studies major at Weinberg College, Prentiss had dreamed of a career as in medicine. But her battle with breast cancer two decades later and the physical limitations that ensued derailed that path.

After a series of chemotherapy treatments and the death of her mother, the single mother of two resolved to press onward, emerging from her trials stronger and more appreciative.

“You fail only when you stop trying,” she said, urging students not to relinquish their power to misperceptions or people.

Prentiss is now the national spokesperson for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day, a series of 60-mile walkathons around the country that raise money for breast cancer prevention and research. She said she has found contentment and comfort with uncertainty and improvisation, crediting her time at Northwestern with spurring the ingenuity and survival skills she leans on so heavily today.

She challenged graduates to embrace new adventures and chase life’s possibilities with hope and purpose.

“Your time at Weinberg is done,” Prentiss said. “This is your new beginning. It’s time to get up and get on with your dream.”

The graduating seniors honored Prentiss’ 15-minute talk with a rousing standing ovation.

“I am Dr. Sheri and my prescription for life is to live,” Prentiss concluded. “To the 2015 graduates, may you always find new roads to travel, new horizons to explore and new dreams to call your own.”

PATHS: Learn more about Sheri Phillips Prentiss '87

Back to top