CULLOWHEE – Members of Western Carolina University’s newest graduating class were encouraged to take part in the 21st-century task of “keeping a human face on a global society” as Western held commencement for approximately 500 students Saturday, Dec. 18.
In the primary commencement address, Western senior Brandon Alexander Robinson said members of the graduating class must preserve their relationships “in a world where work, family, friendship and civic duty are increasingly compartmentalized and disconnected.”
“As your responsibilities in the world increase, it will be harder to preserve that ‘harmony and affection’ without which, Thomas Jefferson thought, ‘liberty and even life itself are but dreary things,’” Robinson said. “Before you leave our campus today, reflect for a moment on the relationships you forged here – what brought them together, what maintained them through life’s trials and tribulations, and what aspects brought joy and fulfillment unspeakable.
“The special people with whom you have forged these relationships have added rich flavor and depth to your life. Now, you can do the same for your families and communities.”
Robinson also reminded the degree candidates and their families and friends in the audience at Western’s Ramsey Center that “individual lives are fleeting.”
“This is a sober realization, for all we really have is the moment,” he said. “Every minute, hour and day that passes expedites our return to the earth from which we sprang. We must breathe more gratefully the air we all share before time’s currents wash us away, recycling us in the workhouse of nature.”
Robinson urged the graduates to put into practice the virtues they have learned. “Mentor a child, comfort a parent, nurture an elder or nourish the stray bits of consciousness in a diseased soul – your life will never have such richness as when committed to the progress of humanity,” he said.
“Very soon, time will collect and spirit away this gathering, presently basking in this brilliant moment,” Robinson said. “And yet three remnants, and three only, will continue to float atop life’s currents when the source has submerged – beauty, wisdom and love.”
Robinson, a resident of Mocksville, earned the honor of delivering the primary commencement address by virtue of his winning essay in a contest sponsored by the university’s Honors College. Open to all Western students, the essay contest is held each fall, and the author of the winning essay earns the honor of delivering that composition at the December ceremony.
The son of Victoria Lynn Price of Mocksville, Robinson is majoring in history at Western, with a minor in philosophy. He plans to graduate from the university in spring 2005, and his plans for the future include attending law school.
In his charge to the graduating seniors, Western Chancellor John W. Bardo noted that Western’s class of December 2004 is a historic one in that it includes the nation’s first four recipients of master’s degrees in entrepreneurship, and also Western’s first eight graduates in the new major of construction management.
Bardo told the degree candidates that during their time at Western they “experienced a very significant transition in the life of this university.” In particular, the students thrived during a period of increasing academic standards at the university, and they witnessed the biggest period of new construction in Western’s history, he said.
“You’ve been a beneficiary of these changes, and an active participant in making sure these changes really work,” Bardo said. “You’ve participated in making Western a much better university, and I hope you’re proud of that. This is a special place. You are a special class.”