Posted on Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Pearls of Wisdom

Graduation season creates great moments across Virginia’s Community Colleges. For one shining moment, the value of our mission, the fruits of our shared labors, and the aspirations of the people we serve all blend into this powerful pageant of success and celebration.

No graduation, of course, would be complete without the wisdom shared by a commencement speaker. Below is a sampling of the advice, humor, and experience offered to graduates across our community colleges.

Blue Ridge Community College: John Butler, Class of 2017

“So, we go. With our book bags full of integrity, willingness and hope, we embark on the roads leading to our success. And regardless of what the future holds, we will always cherish our time here at Blue Ridge Community College. We commit to allowing the passion demonstrated here to be our signature move. This stage of our journey comes to an end, but only so that new beginnings can take flight. Soar my fellow classmates and carry with you the power and the passion that exist here at BRCC.”

Central Virginia Community College: Dr. Belle Wheelan, president of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, and former CVCC president

“Many times, choices will seem easy, others more difficult. There’s a much-used saying that goes, ‘if it seems too good to be true, it is.’ Beware of the ‘too good’ choices. There are often hidden agendas of people with whom you work, live and play. Be smart enough to see through the facades. Question their suggestions in terms of what is in YOUR best interest. Their suggestions might be fine for them, but you must decide what is best for you and, believe me, that will not always be easy.”

Dabney S. Lancaster Community College: Dr. Glenn DuBois, chancellor, Virginia’s Community Colleges

“Great leaders and great teachers know that in order for something to have value, you have to work for it. There’s a reason not everyone tries to go to college. It takes hard work. There’s a reason that not everybody who starts college finishes it. It takes hard work. There’s a reason why not everyone holds a college credential. It takes hard work. The value of that credential comes from all the hard work it represents.”

Eastern Shore Community College: Amy Davis, program manager, NASA’s Robotics Alliance Project at Wallops Flight Facility, and ESCC Distinguished Alumnus Class of 1993

“Businesses rely on employees who know how to make the best use of the tools that are available. Employers are looking for collaborative problem-solvers. Thanks to the vast amount of knowledge that you have accumulated, the value of research projects, good social skills, and the marvels of modern technologies like cell phones, computers, and Wikipedia, you should have a firm grasp on how to search for answers to questions that linger. No employer will expect you to have all the answers to all the questions, especially when you walk into a new job, but they will expect you to ask questions, be motivated to find the answers, and eventually work without constant supervision.”

John Tyler Community College: The Honorable Rosalyn Dance, Virginia Senator, alumna of JTCC’s Nursing Program, and a member of the JTCC Foundation Board

“In our lives, we each have choices to make as to which country road, major highway, byway or airway we may choose to travel. We must each map a course for our lives. We may not reach our planned destination; in fact, we may end up some place much better, or, God forbid, worse. But, we must all set goals, not just safe goals, but rather, limitless goals. Big, bodacious, reach-for-the-stars-and-catch-them-goals.”

Lord Fairfax Community CollegeMark Layden, Class of 2017

“No matter where we go in life. No matter the circumstances we are in, we can better ourselves, and when we better ourselves, we better the world.  There’s no quick fix, but there are three things to remember: chase the people in front of us, support the people beside us, and be gracious to the people behind us.”

Mountain Empire Community College: Olivia Baker, Class of 2017

“My grandfather always used to tell me to take your education seriously, as it is the only thing that can never be taken from you. As a little girl, I never quite understood the truth behind those words, but the older I get, the more I understand just how right he was. Education can take us anywhere we want to go in life, but we all have to start somewhere; and for me and so many other students, Mountain Empire was truly our place to begin.”

Patrick Henry Community College: Bishop Joe Nathan Gravely, Jr., associate professor of nursing

“Sometimes we get discouraged and feel like giving up. We feel like we just don’t have the energy — spiritually, emotionally, physically — to take another step. But, I promise you, if you hang in there, life will find a way to move us forward. We will have our ups. We will have our downs. We will experience successes. We will experience failures. We will win some battles, and we will lose some battles. Either way it goes, we must stand strong and remain determined to be all that we can be.”

Piedmont Virginia Community College: Rasheda Ali-Walsh, international author and speaker, and daughter of world heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali

“My father taught me that service to others is the rent you pay for your room in heaven. It was one of my dad’s favorite quotes and now sits etched in one of his tombstones because it encompasses who he was as a person, what he did while he was here. It was this quote that inspired me to give back to others … I encourage all of you who are now Piedmont alumni to also give back to PVCC and your community, which has done so much for you.”

Southwest Virginia Community College: Dr. Glenn DuBois, chancellor, Virginia’s Community Colleges

“Great leaders and great teachers can get more out of someone than that person can get out of themselves. It can be a push or a pull. It can be a kick in the pants or a pat on the back. It can be a disappointing look or an encouraging word. Great military leaders throughout history, great coaches throughout sports, and great managers throughout modern organizations understand this. Helping someone overcome a big obstacle can be just a matter of getting them out of their own way.”

Tidewater Community College: Capt. Rich McDaniel, commanding officer of Naval Station Norfolk

“You are in the driver’s seat. The same talents that you used to get you here will make you successful in life. So, I want you to remember success is not something that occurs by chance. It is a result of your mindset, of your attitude and your actions. Success occurs when preparedness and opportunity meet. Thanks to TCC, you’re prepared. I encourage you; seek out opportunity and make it happen. Enjoy your journey and make the most out of life. This is your moment, this is your day, this is your life, so make it count.”

Virginia Highlands Community College: Mike Quillen, founder and former chairman of Alpha Natural Resources

“To me, success is not how far you get in life, but the distance you traveled from where you started. Personal wealth, possessions or titles are not a sign of a successful person nearly as much as someone who works hard to educate themselves, then combines that education with practical experience to better their position in life and that of their families.”

Virginia Western Community College: Chris Morrill, executive director/CEO of the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) of the US & Canada

“Throughout my career, I’ve run across ambitious colleagues spending a great deal of time trying to be ‘interesting’ — very much into their titles, forever talking about their skills, their degrees and their successes. Instead of this quest to be interesting, I encourage you to be ‘interested.’ To be interested in your colleagues’ successes, interested in best practices in your profession, interested in how you can better serve your customers and communities. I have found that people who invest their time and talents in being ‘interested’ rather than ‘interesting’ are sought out by others – they become the people with lasting influence, the true leaders in their organizations, and the ones who land on their feet after the inevitable setbacks.”

Wytheville Community College: Travis King, Class of 2017

“As you leave this place today, I would challenge you: do not let others choose your path going forward. Continue taking the road less traveled. In fact, use what you have learned here at WCC to forge your own way in the world so that others may see your example and follow the road less traveled, not because they see it’s easy for you, but because they see it makes a difference for you.”'

Laura Osberger

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