University News

Five C's of Success

2014 Fall Centennial Honors Convocation Address

Dr. Jack Thomas, President - Friday, December 19, 2014

Good evening. On behalf of the University community, I want to welcome you to our 2014 Fall Honors Convocation. I want to thank Dr. Rick Hardy, Director of the Centennial Honors College, Dr. Paul Schlag, Associate Director of the College, Molly Homer and Michele Aurand, the College academic advisors, Patty Battles and Janelle McGruder who provide much needed support. I want to thank them for their hard work and dedication. Let us give these individuals a round of applause.

According to an annual Gallup poll, most Americans do not think it is important to get a college education. Only about 44 percent of Americans believe that getting a college education is "very important." These statistics are alarming. A college education is still the best path to providing low and middle income individuals the best opportunity at a better life and to meet life's challenges. Through your studies in the Honors College you have been challenged, but you have shown character, you have shown commitment, you have shown courage, you have shown creativity, and now it is time to make a contribution to society. At this university, we have high expectations of you as a student and now as a graduate. In both cases, we expect GREATNESS! I expect greatness from you. Your family expects greatness of you! The Honor's College expects greatness of you! Western Illinois University expects greatness of you! Where I come from when you give someone your word, it means something. There are five things I want you to promise me that you will do as a graduate of this University.


As a purple and gold graduate, I want you to be committed in everything that you do. A commitment requires a full investment and a willingness to sacrifice. There is a difference between interest and commitment. When you are interested in something, you will only do it when it is convenient. When you are committed, you do it even if you do not want to. When you are committed, you will not accept excuses, only results. Commitment requires that you push yourself when no one else is around. Be committed in all of your endeavors.


As a graduate of Western Illinois University, I want you to show character. Character is doing things the right way even when no one is looking. I know that we live in a time of selfies, but I believe that selfies and selflessness can coexist, if you have character. Famed basketball coach John Wooden, once said, "You should be more concerned with your character than your reputation because your character is what you really are and your reputation is what others think that you are." Building character will make you stronger and give you courage to do the right thing even in difficult times.


Graduates of Western, I want you to be courageous. Courage is not blind ambition or foolish thought. Courage is not even the absence of being afraid. Courage is striving to meet your goals even when you are afraid. Courage is continuing the process despite having fear and not giving up. Remember on this journey, every pro was once an amateur. Every expert was once a beginner. So dream big and start now. Mark Twain once said, "Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not the absence of fear." Maya Angelou once said, "Courage may be the most important of all virtues because without it, one cannot practice any other virtue consistently." Courage is creativity's fuel.


Class of 2014, I want you to tap into your creativity. Creativity allows us to transcend traditional ideas and create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, and interpretations. Creativity is seeing what others don't see. Creativity takes courage. Masterful artist Henri Mattise, once said, "Creativity takes courage." Albert Einstein once said, that "Creativity is intelligence having fun." Your creativity and innovative ideas may lead to you making a significant contribution to society and the world.


Finally Leathernecks, I want you to make a great contribution to society. Society and humanity advance through the talents and efforts of individuals who believe in contributing to the whole of society, instead of focusing solely on themselves. All individuals are called to help one another and to be humane to each other. I urge you to be an example and an inspiration for others to follow by serving humanity. Good people inspire themselves. Great people inspire others. I want you to look at everyday as a new opportunity. I want you to view every new day as another day to change a life. You have family and friends who are very proud of you. Please continue to make them proud and your alma mater, Western Illinois University, proud. I congratulate each of you, and may you continue to represent this great University well in all of your future endeavors.