Philanthropist encourages 2011 USU graduates to follow their passions

Friends and family gathered outside of the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum at USU on Saturday, May 7, to watch hundreds of undergraduate students stream into the building for the Utah State University 124th Commencement ceremony.USU President Stan Albrecht greeted the graduates and audience. He welcomed state leaders, special guests and faculty in attendance.”Today, of course, is a time for us to celebrate your accomplishments as graduates. But it is impossible, of course, to celebrate graduates without recognizing as well the teachers,” Albecht said.After introducing the valedictorians from each college, Albrecht gave the audience some statistics about this years graduating class. He said that there are 3,622 undergraduate students graduating at USU, coming from 48 states and 22 countries. Women make up 55 percent of the graduates and men make up the other 45 percent. The graduates range from 18 years old to 63 years old.L. John Wilkerson addressed the graduates as an alumni from USU. He said he wanted to share four fundamental guiding principles that have helped in his success through the years. The principles are passion, culture, mentoring and making career decisions.Passion is Wilkerson’s first guiding principles. He urged students to follow their passions with their careers and seek careers that they enjoy.His second principle is culture. He said that people should seek jobs with people they enjoy working with. He said that before agreeing to work with someone you should think about whether they are the kind of person you would want to spend a four-hour drive with.Wilkerson’s third principle is to have good mentors. The graduates should read about people who succeeded in the careers that the student desires. He said they should study people who have lived “lives well lived.”Wilkerson said his last guiding principle is to make good career decisions. He said students should never make career decisions that lock them in place.”An opportunity never caps your future,” Wilkerson said. “Always ask this question; by accepting this position will I expand or reduce my future career options?””Living in America, it’s a society where we seek, we liberate and we venerate talent and ambition,” Wilkerson said as he compared the conditions in the United States and countries such as China and Vietnam by giving examples of individuals who had no opportunities to live up to their potential.He talked about extreme poverty where people only earned $1.50 to buy shelter, water, and food.”Extreme poverty results in poor and corrupt government policies and practices, and it robs mothers, fathers and children of their dignity. And it robs you and me of their creativity, their humanity and their productivity,” Wilkerson said.Wilkerson ended his speech by asking students to join the Global Poverty Project or another organization that tries to help the world. He said the project hopes to eliminate extreme problems and change corrupt government policies that repress talented individuals in other countries.Jason Clark, valedictorian for the College of Agriculture, told the students the story of kiwi birds that learned to fly.Clark said the kiwi birds all yearned to fly and went to a school for flying lessons. After much practicing, the birds learned how to fly, but after they received their diplomas from the school, the kiwis hopped on the bus and rode home. He said it was a waste that they didn’t use their new skills to fly home.”We must take the things we have learned here and use them to help improve the world in which we live,” Clark said.He told students that they need to take several things with them from USU. The first thing students should take with them is the ability to work. He learned that to get ahead of the competition and be noticed you have to have a good work ethic.”You have to consistently be working when everyone else is taking a long break,” Clark said.Clark said the second thing that students should take with them is to look at the big picture. He said to focus on how small tasks relate to the larger goals of a job or project.According to Clark, the last thing students should take with them is all of the fun memories from USU.During the commencement ceremonies, Albrecht recognized teachers and community leaders who received awards and honorary degrees from USU. Ralf E. Whitesides, Maureen C. Hearns, Timothy A. Solcum, Heng Ban, David Richter, Christopher A. Call and Tonya B. Triplett all received teaching excellence awards. Frank N. Caliendo also received the Eldon J. Gardner Teaching Award.David Lancy received the D. Wynne Thorne Career Research Award, Daniel T. Drost received the E. G. Peterson Extension Award, Kenneth L. White received the Outstanding Graduate Mentor Award and Wynn R. Walker received the newly created International Professor of the Year Award.Honorary Degrees were also given to outstanding members of the community: L. John Wilkerson, Mike Dmitrich, Karen Haight Huntsman, Syng-Il Hyun and C. Hardy Redd.The commencement ceremony closed with the songs “Homeward Bound” and the “Alma Mater Hymn.”

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