May 05, 2014 : Former Lancaster Campus Student Tells Ohio University Graduates to Always Remember Where They Came From
By Angela Woodward and Gretchen Gregory
More than 3,000 undergraduates penned the last chapter in their academic journey at Ohio University and were welcomed into the University’s alumni family at Commencement ceremonies Saturday on the Athens Campus.
Graduates in all of the University’s 10 academic units as well as its five regional campuses were celebrated by the Ohio University community, proud family members and friends, and distinguished guests at two ceremonies held at the Convocation Center.
A morning ceremony featured graduates from the College of Business, the College of Fine Arts, OHIO’s regional campuses, the Russ College of Engineering and Technology, the Scripps College of Communication and University College while the afternoon ceremony was dedicated to graduates from the College of Arts and Sciences, the Patton College of Education, the College of Health Sciences and Professions, the Center for International Studies and the Honors Tutorial College.
Graduates were in a festive mood, chanting “OU, Oh yeah,” taking selfies and phoning their loved ones to tell them where they were seated, as the morning commencement ceremony kicked off.
Ohio University President Roderick J. McDavis welcomed the graduates and guests to the ceremonies, telling those receiving degrees, “Today, we honor you, your achievement, your commitment and your passion.”
Those themes of achievement, commitment and passion carried over into McDavis’ introduction of this year’s Undergraduate Commencement speaker, Charles “Chuck” R. Stuckey Jr.
Stuckey, a 1966 Ohio University alumnus who earned a degree in mechanical engineering and received an honorary doctor of engineering degree in 2005, is chairman emeritus of computer security giant RSA Security and led a prestigious 40-year career in the field of information technology. A stalwart supporter of Ohio University, Stuckey’s service and generosity to the University can be seen throughout the OHIO community.
“His time, talents and tremendous professional achievement have earned Mr. Stuckey utmost distinction with the Ohio University community,” McDavis said.
Words of wisdom from one Bobcat to the Class of 2014
Addressing the graduates, Stuckey set out to do what all great commencement speakers do: To provide the keys to lifelong happiness and success.
“I can’t think of any pressure coming out of that,” he joked.
Stuckey shared his personal and professional journey – one that began as an undergraduate on OHIO’s Lancaster Campus, later transitioning to the Athens Campus and commuting to classes while working part-time jobs in Athens and Lancaster. He also shared a couple of lessons learned along the way, starting with: “Don’t be afraid to get outside your comfort zone.”
He spoke of his first job after college with IBM and how that experience helped him to overcome his fear of public speaking and gain confidence in making tough choices.
“One of the roadblocks I’ve seen to a successful career and a truly exciting life is the fear of making a decision and then having the confidence to follow it through,” he said.
Stuckey also talked about growing up in Lancaster, Ohio, and his parents who instilled in him the values of hard work and personal responsibility.
“As they always liked to say, ‘The world doesn’t owe you a living,’ and ‘It’s up to you to make your own way in life,’” he said. “Which leads me to my second takeaway: Never lose sight of where you came from or compromise on your values.”
Stuckey was the oldest of six children and worked several jobs while attending Ohio University. Those employment experiences and his college degree, he said, launched his professional career and later led him to take a chance on a small computer startup that he transformed into one of the top 100 security software companies in the world. He credited listening to his inner voice with being a great predictor of his job satisfaction and ultimate success.
“Listen to your inner voice or gut in making important decisions in life,” he said. “Let passion – not dollars – be your motivator.”
And, when it comes to professional success, Stuckey offered two life lessons: “Surround yourself with the brightest and smartest people you can find, and then try to keep out of their way,” and “It’s not the failures in life, but how we respond to them, that determine how much success we’ll ultimately achieve.”
“Looking back over my career, I realize that life is truly a series of doors. Your job now is to open those doors, evaluate the opportunity, and, if your instinct gives you the green light, go for it,” he told the graduates. “From this point on, you need to set your own expectations and goals, and I encourage you to set them high. It all comes down to passion, determination and hard work.”
Academic journey comes full circle
The Commencement ceremonies also provided an opportunity to recognize student leadership among the graduates.
“You have progressed both in and out of the classroom, and I encourage you to use your education and the other life lessons you have learned as a foundation to become leaders in our global society,” Vice President of Student Affairs Ryan Lombardi told the morning graduates.
Amongst OHIO’s graduating student leaders was Anna Morton, outgoing president of the University’s Student Senate, who addressed her fellow graduates during the morning ceremony.
Morton reflected on the students’ four years at the University, saying, “This feeling and bond that is grown at Ohio University is an artwork that we do not fully understand until our time is coming to a close.”
As the Class of 2014 prepares to leave OHIO’s campuses, Morton said, many of them likely feel the way they did when they began their academic journey – excited, scared, ambitious and, maybe, naïve.
“Here we are again – finished with one portion and ready for the next,” Morton said. “The final masterpiece of your time at Ohio University may be finished, but the canvas is still very, very blank. … Cherish the feeling of the unknown because, looking back, the unknown leaves so much opportunity for fun and growth.”
A new chapter at OHIO
While this chapter in their Ohio University journey has come to a close, members of the Class of 2014 were welcomed into a new relationship with the University as members of OHIO’s nearly 200,000 alumni.
“We hope your alumni status will mean a lifelong link to a place fondly remembered and a connection to people who helped you realize your dreams, passions and promise,” Julie Mann Keppner, vice chair of the Ohio University Alumni Association, told the graduates.
As Saturday’s graduates reflected on their time at the University, they shared stories among each other and with their loved ones and lamented all the things at OHIO and in Athens that they will miss.
“Everything is a favorite memory,” said Don Peden Brown, who graduated from the College of Business and has accepted a position with the Oklahoma City RedHawks, a minor league baseball team. Peden Brown, like several men in his family, was named after legendary Ohio University Football Coach and Peden Stadium namesake Don Peden. Peden Brown’s great-grandfather played football at OHIO under Peden.
“I think I’ll miss just the people in general,” Peden Brown said of leaving Athens. “Everyone in Athens and on campus is so friendly and fun to be around, and I always feel welcome wherever I am. Everyone here, whether you’ve known them for years or 20 minutes, is excited to shake your hand or give a high-five, and I’ll miss the laughter with people.”
For Morgan Sprosty, who graduated from the Scripps College of Communication, it’s the sense of community and pride in OHIO that she will miss most.
“My freshman year I was on the Swimming and Diving Team when we won the MAC Championship at home, and it was the most-exciting moment of my entire life to this point,” she said. “I have too many good memories. The Bobcat pride is comparable to none – anywhere in the world.”
OHIO employees honored for service
OHIO graduates weren’t the only ones to be celebrated at Undergraduate Commencement.
The OHIO community also paid tribute to David Descutner, dean of University College and vice provost for undergraduate education, who is retiring after 35 years of service to the University but returning to the faculty through the early retiree program. McDavis spoke of Descutner’s unwavering support for first-year and academic support programs, which has greatly enhanced undergraduate education at OHIO and transformed University College into one of the University’s most collaborative and respected colleges.
“Dr. Descutner’s passion for teaching, mentorship and advocacy has left an indelible mark on the hearts and minds of numerous Ohio University students and graduates,” McDavis said. “We are very proud of him and the lasting legacy he leaves on our undergraduate education programs.”
The Ohio University community also bid a fond farewell to Dan Evans, who is retiring after serving the University for more than 13 years. Among the positions Evans has held at OHIO are dean of Ohio University Southern, executive dean of Regional Higher Education, and vice provost of E-Learning Ohio and Strategic Initiatives. Most recently, Evans served as interim dean of the Southern Campus.
A graduate of Ohio University, McDavis said that Evans “exemplifies steadfast devotion to his alma mater.”