The messages to students receiving graduate and undergraduate degrees last weekend were diverse, yet similar: Have fun, move forward, make a difference and give back.
Nearly 300 students received diplomas Saturday and Sunday during the university’s 160th commencement. In all, 56 graduate students in counseling, education, business administration and music education received their master’s degrees on Saturday. On Sunday, 222 undergraduates joined the ranks of Heidelberg alumni. Students in the graduating classes represented 13 states and two foreign countries.
Throughout the weekend, the weather cooperated beautifully for the graduates and families who packed Seiberling Gymnasium for the commencement ceremonies as well as the Sunday morning Baccalaureate service, which featured a dynamic sermon by the Rev. Dr. David Mark Greenhaw, president and professor of preaching and worship at Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis.
Heidelberg was blessed this year to have a pair of individuals whose lives have intersected across several sectors as the keynote speakers for the commencement ceremonies.
Dr. William F. Rayburn, a former finance professor who developed FNC Inc., a pioneering mortgage technology company, gave graduate students five pieces of advice toward their effort to make a difference in their lives:
- Have fun. “If you find a vocation that is fun, it won’t feel like work.”
- Do some things that are not fun sometimes because “that’s how you learn.”
- Look for ways to get better and the world will change because of it.
- Be curious.
- Give back “and do it with a smile on your face.”
Sharing his life lessons as a member of the famed Tuskegee Airmen and an educator, Lt. Col. Harold Brown also delivered two “orders” to the graduates., who entered college during the economic recession. As the economy shows signs of recovery, “Many employers are beginning to hire again, and your Heidelberg degree will serve you well.”
“You’re going to have to supply additional skills and make yourselves more valuable and special,” Brown told the graduates. “Prepare to get with it because learning is going to be an important part of your life.”
In their careers, students will need to use critical thinking skills. “You may never have to bail out of a place but you’ll have to think yourselves out of critical situations,” said Brown, referring to his military experience surviving three flight accidents before he was 21 years old.
Communicating effectively and working well with a team – liberal arts skills emphasized at Heidelberg – are the same ones he utilized during his 25-year military career and his 48-year second career in higher education. “As much as times continue to change, the more they remain the same.”
Putting on his lieutenant colonel hat, Brown issued two orders to the class: “You have had the good fortune to have the association of one of the finest faculties, and whether you know it or now, you owe them a debt of gratitude.” Students can repay the debt by supporting the university as alumni.
And after receiving their diplomas, he encouraged them “to hit the ground running and don’t stop until you’ve found the perfect job.”
“Make your Heidelberg University family proud,” he said.
Student speakers represented the Class of 2013 at both ceremonies. Vincent W. Frigmanski, who received his MBA degree, encouraged his classmates to keep up their pace of learning in his address, titled “Keep Moving.” At the undergraduate ceremony, Mackenzie Wallace, who received his bachelor’s degree in communication & theatre arts, gave spirited remarks about the importance of versatility and liberal arts as preparation for life.
Heidelberg presented honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degrees to Brown and Greenhaw.