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Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College Commencement


Prepared Remarks
May 17, 2014

On behalf of West Virginia University, I am delighted to congratulate the Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College Class of 2014.

Having served as president at about half the universities in this country, I have conferred more degrees than just about anyone on the planet.

But each time I look out into a sea of graduates’ happy, hopeful faces, I feel as excited as I did on my own college graduation day (46 years ago).

I must admit, I remember everything BUT what the speaker said, so I don’t blame you if you are focused on the excitement of the day and not my words of wisdom.

Since I am almost the only thing standing between you and your degree, I will keep my comments brief.

My deepest thanks to Campus President Joanne Tomblin for inviting me to share this special day with you.

I often say that education is the economic engine for our state in the 21st century. It is as important to West Virginia’s future as coal mines and steel mills were 50 years ago.

I appreciate the way President Tomblin and all the faculty and staff here are working to make sure West Virginia has an educated citizenry. And, most of all, I appreciate the initiative you have shown in pursuing your education.

Your degree opens a new universe of opportunities. And the work you put in here has prepared you to shoot for the stars.

In your time at Southern, you have endured and persevered through every test.

You challenged yourselves in every conceivable way.

You navigated through requirements and electives, while managing other work and family responsibilities.

You discovered talents you never knew you possessed.

You gained mentors, found friends, and made memories.

You have worked tirelessly with this day in mind.

Take some time today to feel proud of what you have accomplished. I know your families and friends are proud of you.

Your professors are also proud of you and excited to see you succeed.

They have helped to open your minds, broaden your horizons, and strengthen your abilities.

Now, it is up to you. Whether you are preparing to continue your education or launch your career, I truly believe you can go as far as your dreams take you.

I therefore send you forth with a few words of advice.

Here goes:

Never wear flip flops to a job interview.

Obey the better angels of your nature.

Read more.

Sing more.

Dance more.

Laugh more.

And complain less.

Keep in touch with your old friends. It is easier than ever these days, but stop Snapchat’ing and Instagram’ing long enough to make new friends, too.

Enjoy the little things. One day you will look back and realize they were big things.

Being a grown up does not mean you cannot act like a kid now and then — so grab a Nerf blaster and play Humans versus Zombies once in a while.

Your life will not always go according to plan … and that is okay. As author Wally Lamb said: “Sometimes when you go looking for what you want, you run right in to what you need.”

Graduation is not a signal to stop learning. Continuing to learn will keep your job skills marketable and your mind sharp. So have a “to learn” list, as well as a “to do” list.

Remember to say “thank you.”

Remember to smile.

Remember that life’s best memories will not revolve around the hours you spend at your job, so surround yourself with loved ones and friends.

Remember to breathe.

And always, always remember your alma mater for she will not forget you!

Congratulations and enjoy this very special day!