CULLOWHEE – Western Carolina University Chancellor John W. Bardo conferred degrees on approximately 430 students as the university held fall commencement exercises Saturday, Dec. 13.
Graduating senior and commencement speaker Ginny Ann Hyatt of Waynesville spoke to the graduates and their families and friends about the secret and measure of success.
“I believe there is no road to success – no one certain path that must be taken,” Hyatt said. “Success can be simply defined as just doing what needs to be done, completing a task you have put upon yourself.
“I urge you today to not confuse passion with success,” Hyatt told the graduates. “Passion is the joy of getting there. Success can be a lofty goal, but it also can be a trap, if you lose passion along the way. I think this country and our culture glorify the goddess success to the point that whenever we try and fail, we hear our own inner voice say, ‘Shame on you.’ If there is any shame, it is the fact that we inflict such heavy punishment on ourselves,” she said.
“In our now previous lives as students, we were made to measure our success on grades, or class rank,” she said. “Out there in the real world, there is no ‘A’ that can be earned that will give us that feeling of success. There are, however, greater, more meaningful ways for each and every one of us to know and measure success – that promotion we were hoping for, that legislation we struggled to get passed, the birth of our first child, the lives we touched knowingly and unknowingly.
“After we walk across this stage today, our lives will define what success means,” Hyatt said. “So, my fellow graduates, measure it wisely and make the world before you a better one by creating your own passion-driven definition of success.”
Hyatt is the daughter of Danny and Patricia Hyatt of Waynesville. A management major, she earned the right to address the students by winning an essay contest sponsored each fall by Western’s Honors College.
In his charge to the graduates, Bardo congratulated the university’s newest alumni for meeting Western’s increasingly rigorous academic standards.
“Through your entire career here, you have engaged in work in which faculty have clearly raised academic expectations,” Bardo said. “You entered during the era in which Western changed direction and pushed hard to make sure we raised our academic standards across the institution.
“That only happened because so many faculty members were willing to take up the challenge and demonstrate the degree to which they care about your education,” Bardo said. “In fact, what they have done is to give you the opportunity to have a national-class – indeed, world-class – education. Each of you has contributed in your own way to Western’s emerging reputation for excellence.”
Bardo reminded the graduates of some of the milestones they witnessed, and helped make possible, while at the university, including the success of the residential Honors College; academic accomplishments of student-athletes; and an ongoing building program that has resulted in the opening of a new Center for Applied Technology, ground-breaking for a Greek Village, construction of a new Fine and Performing Arts Center, and significant renovations to campus buildings.
“Use what you’ve learned to be a good citizen, to contribute to your community and to support your family,” Bardo told the graduates. “Be a lifelong learner, be a person of value, and remember that those of us who stay here in Cullowhee will look with pride on all that you accomplish. You are ours for life, and we are yours for life.”