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Welcome to the College of Business

Commencement Speech
Fall 2012 Graduating Class
College of Business, Athens State University

Good morning… and Thank you, President Glenn, distinguished trustees, distinguished faculty, guests, and graduates. I am honored by the privilege to be your commencement speaker today.

Today is indeed a great day. The ceremony in which you are participating signifies the culmination of a demanding academic process and your qualification to be declared “graduates of Athens State University.”

With great anticipation, each of you has long envisioned this day and the moment when you walk across this stage to receive that precious piece of paper as the crowning symbolism representing your successful completion of a rigorous academic process.

By the way, I fully realize that I am what is standing in the way, between you and that very special moment. So I w on’t torture you with a long speech. I do, however, want to spend a few minutes to take you down a reflective lane.

Your graduation from Athens State will forever be remembered as one of your most important life achievements. But for just a brief moment, go back and reflect on your times of struggle as you traveled through your academic journey. Each of you, despite your different experiences, has moved through uncertainty, confusion, and doubt. Many of you had come to the brink of giving up entirely, but somehow found the wherewithal to persevere.

Each of those difficult moments over which you triumphed had developmental value and has shaped you as a result. What you learned in those moments were not formally stated as an offering within your curriculum, but has fallen into your lives as one of the richest benefits of being an Athens State student. These life lessons are a bonus in addition to the knowledge you acquired about your academic disciplines. The experience of having survived your academic struggles and the confidence that comes with this has huge transferability as you move forward.

Many things in your future will present themselves as daunting impossibilities. Reflecting on your triumphs over your struggles, while being a student at Athens State, will serve to embolden you to take on challenges that you might had previously concluded as something far beyond your capability. Think about it. Now you are smarter. You are more capable. You are more confident. And you are tougher. Know that this will serve you well as you face whatever daunting challenges appear in your future.

Go ahead. Languish in the joy and celebrate that today you become Athens State University Graduates with all the enhanced capabilities that come with that and the value it provides for your future.

And go one step further. Take the time over the next few days to reconnect with those people who have stood by your side, given you support, and have helped to make what you are celebrating today possible. Don’t forget your Athens State teachers and administrators, your parents, your spouses, your employers, members of your cohort, all your friends and loved ones who have supported your success. And never lose sight of the fact that, no matter what far corner of the earth you might eventually inhabit, that you will, as long as you live, be a walking, breathing representation of what this institution is all about.

With your graduation comes responsibility. You are charged, both individually and collectively, to elevate the Athens State University brand - not only by what you do, but how you do it – keeping ethics at the forefront of all your actions. You have this responsibility; not to the buildings and facilities that physically represent the institution, but to each other- not only to the 2012 Athens State Graduates in this room, but to the ones who have preceded you. As graduates, Athens State University is now an inextricable part of your identity. I urge you to not only preserve this, but to enhance it.

Not long ago you were like the caterpillar in the cocoon, but you have now gone through an academic metamorphosis. Like the butterfly you have sprouted new wings. With this emerges the question, “to where might you fly now?” The possibilities with which to answer this question are endless.

I would love to suggest possible responses to this question by applying some profound knowledge gained from my readings of Gandhi. Unfortunately, in full disclosure, I haven't read any of Gandhi's stuff- but I did hear a good story about him, and I would like to share that with you.

Gandhi was traveling by rail when a passenger on the same train cornered him and pressed, "Just what exactly is your message?” Gandhi thought for a brief moment and responded, "My life is my message."

Your life is your message.

I say this to highlight that the knowledge we gather, no matter how deeply, only rests as a latent potential for some greater good. The challenge, as you take your message forward, is to take your keenly developed knowledge and put it into meaningful and purposeful service.

As you wonder how that might unfold, one thing is certain: With what you have learned here at Athens State, you will make extraordinary contributions to the communities you serve. While today is indeed a great day of celebration, it also represents the bittersweet end of one journey and the joyful beginning of another.

I will await with eager anticipation to see and hear how the Fall 2012 Graduating Class from the College of Business at Athens State University peppers the world with their many strong contributions and good work. I have no doubt that you will excel in what you do from here forward, and the world will be a better place because you are in it.

I give you my heartfelt congratulations. You have my best wishes for continued success. And may God bless you.

Thank you.
Joe Collazo

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