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From the WVU president’s desk: Dear Class of 2015

(Exclusive to the Daily Athenaeum, May 11, 2015.)


Your mountain is waiting.

For you Dr. Seuss fans out there, that line from “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” may have a more profound impact as you prepare for graduation.

It is also fitting because, after all, we are Mountaineers. Your mountain is waiting, indeed.

Throughout the years that book has provided me with focus in times of challenge. I have relied on “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” as an impetus for inspiration. This is why I believe it is a must-read for all of you as you explore the next steps to life’s journey.

For me, I remember donning my cap and gown some 47 years ago. Though “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” was not published until 1990, I still dreamed about the unknown destinations where my college degree could take me.

Growing up in the small town of Vernal, Utah, I was the son of a father who was a small businessman and a mother who was a school teacher. Earning my undergraduate degree in history at the University of Utah – situated three hours away in Salt Lake City, the nearest metropolis from Vernal – was a big deal in itself. Anywhere outside of Vernal seemed like a vast, magical place.

After college, here I was again, ready for the next step and a new place to go. I decided to attend graduate school – across the country at Columbia University. Then I became a staff assistant at the U.S. Supreme Court. And then I found my calling in higher education, a livelihood that has awarded me with 35-plus glorious years as a professor, dean and president of many of the top universities in the nation.

Oh, the places I have been!

Now it is your turn. The world is your playground. You have the opportunity to go anywhere you want. Reflect on that for a moment.

But with those jolts of excitement come flashes of anxiety. As Dr. Seuss alludes to, there will be bumps along your journey.

You will come to a place

where the streets are not marked.

Some windows are lighted.

But mostly they’re darked.

Trust me, life delivers its share of unpleasantness. I have faced them – from professional hurdles to personal woes. But on we go, just like true Mountaineers and the protagonist in “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”

On and on you will hike.

And I know you’ll hike far

And face up to your problems

Whatever they are.

Perhaps some of you view graduation itself as a puzzle. Maybe you are hung up on your next step. Or you do not know where to start.

We all feel confused sometimes. Just remember that you are without limitations. After all, you made it to the Big Dance of your college career — graduation. You conquered all of those mind-bending exams, all-nighters at the library and complex projects with fellow classmates.

One piece of advice that will always nudge you in the right direction is to stay true to yourself. Never waver from your core beliefs. Never be something you are not.

Also, much like our hero in “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” I encourage you to avoid the pit of “The Waiting Place,” where everyone waits around for something to happen. Too much waiting wastes precious moments in life.

Instead of you waiting, there is something awaiting you. It is that mountain.

Let’s go.


E. Gordon Gee