Belle Wheelan, president of the Southern Association of Colleges & Schools Commission on Colleges, had the crowd on the edge of their seats at Campbell University’s spring commencement ceremony.
With their hands empty of cell phones and graduation programs, Wheelan instructed the Class of 2017 to jump up, throw their hands in the air and shout “Hallelujah” before she began her speech.
“Years from now you won’t remember my name or much of what I said, but you’ll remember I had you shouting Hallelujah.”
With the class settled back into their seats, Wheelan began sharing ten lessons she learned since her graduation.
With taking care of oneself and continuing to ask questions rounding out the first two lessons, Wheelan encouraged students to lighten up and embrace laughing in stressful situations.
Her fourth and fifth lessons, contributing to a retirement fund before shopping and giving back both time and money, served as timely financial advice.
“If you are anything like me as a college graduate, you have more time than you have money,” she said. “And time, I have learned, is more valuable than money. You help other people with your time and make a difference in their lives. You can’t measure that with a dollar.”
The sixth lesson she shared the idea of treating both a janitor and a president of a company with the same regard. She reminded them that custodians tend to have all the keys anyway.
Near the end of her list, she encouraged the graduates to remember their manners, become active members of their communities, and that being cocky is the least effective way to influence people.
As she wrapped up, she encouraged graduates to meet barriers and boundaries with enthusiasm instead of dread.
“Use the energy from those experiences to keep forging ahead rather than getting down and out because you think someone is trying to keep you from something.”
Nearly 600 graduates of the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education and the Lundy-Fetterman School of Business received undergraduate or graduate degrees at Saturday’s ceremony.
Among those graduates was Jacob T. Knox, this year’s recipient of the Campbell University’s Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award. A Math major from Mebane, North Carolina, Knox thrived in many areas during his time at Campbell, including his leadership roles with the Campbell Battalion ROTC, residence life, and campus ministry.
Ryan Holloman, senior class president, also addressed the crowd reminding them that despite many different hometowns, religious beliefs and political ideologies, one thing ties the class of 2017 together. They are all members of the family known as the Campbell University Alumni now.
“This year Campbell established a new tagline, Leading with Purpose,” said Holloman. “I believe that this class exemplifies this tagline and also captures the University’s mission to cultivate leaders to prepare for purposeful lives and meaningful service.”
During her address, Wheelan encouraged the graduates to overcome adversity by learning to laugh, remaining civil towards one another, and being active in their communities by using her life lessons that she shared.
“We are all Americans, and the word American ends in the letters I-C-A-N. I can. Ladies and gentlemen, you have already proven that you can be successful. I promise you there will be many more days to come that you will have to rise to the occasion to show what good stuff they helped you developed here at Campbell University.”