West Virginia University students who walked across the commencement stage Saturday (Dec. 15) may feel the world they’re entering is uncertain, but the sure thing in their lives is that their Morgantown experience has changed them.
It’s their turn, WVU President Gordon Gee told them.
“Now it’s time for you to start changing our world,” he said, and one of the most important ways for them to do that is to heal the country’s divisions that are both “portentous and preposterous."
“I believe you have the power to lead us out of our splintered, blinkered state and into one of fairness, enlightenment and respect for our shared democratic heritage,” Gee said. “You have the power to apply your education to the highest possible purpose: bringing people together.”
Among the more than 2,600 graduates WVU has conferred degrees upon are a Gilman scholar with a double major, a veteran who came to WVU sight-unseen and an engineering student who makes the path toward a STEM education easier for other young women.
Elizabeth Young majored in history and geography with a minor in French at the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences. She still found time to compete on the rowing team and study abroad in Paris. She wants to change the world by working on the environment.
“Through my emphasis in environmental change I’ve learned about the environment in such a way that I never have before and how interconnected humans and the environment are,” Young said. “It’s really pushed me to want to pursue environmental history as a future graduate level degree.”
Howard Schilling, a U.S. Air Force veteran from Georgia, came to WVU as a non-traditional student without visiting the campus first. A strategic communications major at the Reed College of Media, Schilling is an officer with Mountaineer Maniacs and participated in the Disney College internship. And it’s the Disney Corp. where he’d like to use the skills he learned at WVU.
“Without my experiences here at WVU, I would not be in the position I am today with these opportunities at my feet,” Schilling said. “Every person should spend at least one day on campus, just to experience the energy that pulses through Morgantown. I am proud to be a Mountaineer.”
Kristyn Johnson from Mingo County excelled in her mechanical and aerospace engineering program at the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources while encouraging other young women to pursue STEM degrees through Alpha Omega Epsilon’s Junior Academy. Johnson wants to change the world for the women who come after her in the engineering field.
“The academy strives to fulfill the need for a present role model by pairing each attendee with a current female college student with similar interests,” Johnson said. “We hope to continually replenish the pool of mentors with academy graduates as they establish their own collegiate success.”
WVU Provost Joyce McConnell said the University is tremendously proud of its 2018 graduates.
“Having received a world-class education here at WVU, our newest graduates are poised to change our world for the better,” McConnell said. “We are excited about their success, but not surprised by it. They have worked with purpose for this day and for their future.”
That future began with hugs and tears, photos, cheers and an acknowledgement of a job well-done during Saturday’s commencement which also honored those who already worked to change the world.
Two people were awarded honorary doctorates during the afternoon ceremony.
Jack Furst, a distinguished private equity investor and Eagle Scout, is an executive board member and officer on the Boy Scouts National Council and was the driving force behind the creation of the Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve near Beckley.
Donald Hoylman, founder of Industrial Resources, Inc. of Fairmont, took his company from a small business to a major international mining manufacturing organization.
Follow @WVUToday on Twitter.