The president of West Virginia Wesleyan College's Class of 2013 told her fellow graduates Saturday that she didn't believe she was in any sort of position to give advice on the future.
After all, Molly Full said, she is moving from her home in Vienna to attend a school she never visited in a city in which she doesn't have a place to live.
Still, she searched for just the right words to say on the day 275 people were conferred their college degrees. Like any typical college student, she googled "graduation speeches," but found only cliched stories and lots of Hallmark-style phrases. But she said she and the other Wesleyan students went through a similar situation about four years ago.
The Inter-Mountain photo by John Wickline
West Virginia Wesleyan’s Dr. Larry Parsons, right, introduces Christine Rapking Cox, left, who received an honorary doctorate’s degree and served as the keynote speaker at the college’s graduation exercises Saturday. College President Dr. Pamela Balch, center, listens to Parsons’ stories of having Cox has a member of the Wesleyan choral group.
"All we really knew about Wesleyan was to expect great things," Full said, quoting the line from the promotional brochure. "We came to Wesleyan expecting to find great things, and we found them in ourselves and others. It was a matter of reaching through the fear."
Full left the advice-dispensing to commencement speaker Christine Rapking Cox, a member of the Wesleyan Class of 1969 and a member of the college's Board of Trustees. Cox received an honorary doctorate's degree Saturday for her 30 years in public and private sector management.
She asked the graduates if they were ready for what lies ahead.
"You've taken your last class, passed your last test I assume, visited your favorite campus spot and maybe cleaned your dorm room," Cox said. "You're moving on to the next phase in your life. Did your noblest dreams of life begin (at college)?"
Cox joked that she is allowed to offer advice to the class because she was the one at the podium, adding she was also older than the students.
She urged the students to find their voice and to use it to make a positive difference in the world. Doing so, Cox said, would require constant evaluation of the vocational, physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of one's life.
"A lot of what you have done at West Virginia Wesleyan College was to prepare you for a vocation, she said. But ask yourself, what do you want to be known for? "
She said the graduates should provide quality work, have integrity, take responsibility, lead others to be successful and "to not practice whining as a strategy."
Cox also told the class it needs to develop self-confidence and recognize when changes need to be made. She said challenges lie ahead, some even that may seem overwhelming.
"But if you're grounded well, you will learn," she said. "You will adapt, and you will move on to find your voice."
College officials also bestowed an honorary doctorate's degree on the Rev. Dr. William Wilson, a member of the Class of 1972. Wilson is a former member of the school's Board of Trustees and has held several leadership positions in the Methodist Church.
The Class of 2013 raised about $9,000 as its gift to the college, and the money will be used to purchase high-quality printers and technology. The class also selected music professor Doug Van Gundy as its distinguished faculty member.