University News

Paving Your Path to Prosperity

2016 Fall Centennial Honors Convocation Address

Dr. Jack Thomas, President - Friday, December 16, 2016

Good evening. On behalf of the University community, we welcome you to our 2016 Honors Convocation. I want to thank Dr. Rick Hardy, Director of the Centennial Honors College, Molly Homer and Michele Aurand, the honors academic advisors, Angie Louden, Kim Sedgwick, and Alex Geisler, who provide a tremendous amount of support for students in the Honors College. I want to thank them for their hard work, dedication and commitment to our honors students. Let us give these individuals a round of applause.

To the brilliant and high-achieving students who are a part of the Centennial Honors College, congratulations on all that you have accomplished. As you complete your studies at Western Illinois University, you must look to the future with promise. Remain focused on your goals, so that you can continue on the path to prosperity.

Graduates, the steps you take today and tomorrow represent entering a new phase or path in your life. You are now increasingly responsible for your own choices. However, your paths have been guided by your parents, other loved ones, Western’s faculty and esteemed mentors. Moving forward, you will be required to chart your own path. I implore you to make sound decisions, and to be intentional about the paths you wish to travel in life. My unsolicited advice is to follow the path that leads to prosperity, while making positive contributions to the world around you.

I do not believe that you made it to this point by accident. You are a part of this convocation for a reason. As a collegian, you have been privileged to pave your path to prosperity, and our faculty and staff have been on this path with you. I often say, “If you do not know where you are going, any path will get you there.” Your college education should not be your final destination. Keep striving for excellence. You have not finished the course yet. Your time at Western has prepared you for lifelong learning, but your path to prosperity is not complete. I would like to share a few useful pointers with you as you continue along this path.

Preparing to Pave Your Path

While preparing to pave your path to prosperity, it is essential that you plan accordingly. Remember the cliche that says, “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Although setting goals and establishing a timeline to complete them is good, prosperity does not have an end-point. Persistence and hard work are vital. However, sometimes accomplishments take longer to materialize than we would like. You may have to re-adjust your goals and be innovative in order to continue down the path to prosperity.

You live in an ever-changing world, and you may not be able to lock yourself into traditional timelines. When obstacles are encountered along your path, never give up on your dreams and your goals. However, while pursuing your path, also take time to enjoy life, and engage in meaningful activities with your family and friends. Do not be afraid to disconnect from social media and online distraction, to interact with loved ones in traditional ways.

Protecting Your Path

There are people who may stand as obstacles on your path to prosperity. Do not let them block or divert you from reaching your destinations of success. Leave negative people alone, and spend your time associating with people who will encourage you to continue paving your path to prosperity. Be proactive, but patient, and politely remove people who obstruct your path. You ought to be in spaces and situations that will move you forward. Remember, your character is important and you must protect it at all costs, so try to avoid being associated with negative people. John Wooden, the legendary basketball coach once said, “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are." You must guard both your character and your reputation.

Charting Your Path

As graduates of Western Illinois University, dress for success. When charting your path to prosperity, you should carry and present yourself with great confidence, dignity and class. Make sure your path remains clear of debris. As I often tell my loved ones when driving, you have to look ahead – to make sure you are able to avoid obstacles in front of you. You must be proactive, so you are not constantly in a state of reacting to things that may impact your ability to move forward to prosperity.

Make sure your vision is clear. Good vision is necessary when traveling down the path to prosperity. You must be able to see clearly to navigate along your route. However, if you do find obstacles on your path, never give up. Persevere, keep working, identify another route, and then continue on the path to prosperity. Do not retreat and travel in the direction you have already traversed.

Remember, your goal should always be to continue moving forward. Just because you are graduating with honors and accolades, your work is not done. You must continue to do the things that made you successful here. Success is not a destination, but a process. Continue striving to do good work and to improve.

The path to prosperity may not always be easy. As honors graduates of Western Illinois University, you know that hard work is often rewarded. With perseverance and determination, you will have a prosperous life. I encourage you to use your prosperity for good and to help those who will come after you, just as those who traveled the path before you, helped you along the way.

Graduates, I wish you much continued success in the future. May you find joy and happiness in your journey along the path to prosperity.
Thank you and I wish you well in your endeavors.