University News

Greatness Rests on the Peaks of the Mountains

2019 Spring Centennial Honors Convocation Address

Dr. Jack Thomas, President - Friday, May 10, 2019 (Macomb campus) & Sunday, May 12, 2019 (Quad Cities campus)

Ladies and gentlemen, parents and friends, faculty and staff, and distinguished graduates, welcome to this year’s Honors Convocation. Each semester, an Honors Convocation is held to recognize the Western Illinois University students who have distinguished themselves as participants in, and graduates of, the renowned Centennial Honors College and who have earned other academic awards and honors. On behalf of all of us gathered here this afternoon, we congratulate each of our honorees. They have distinguished themselves as excellent students at this world-class University. The academic prowess of this class is remarkable and noteworthy.

Not only have these outstanding honors students excelled in the classroom, but they have distinguished themselves as public servants and student leaders in a number of ways as well.  These rising stars have volunteered countless hours to assist Big Brothers & Big Sisters, the Scouts, youth sports, blood drives, clothing drives, the American Cancer Society, grade school reading programs, food pantries, environmental cleanup projects, service to our country, and many other activities. They have held executive offices in the Student Government Association and their respective hall governments.  They have served on many important boards and committees, including college councils, orientation teams, and the University Honors Council.  Many have served as leaders in fraternities and sororities, in University organizations, in ROTC, and in numerous honor societies, such as Phi Kappa Phi, Golden Key, Blue Key, Tau Sigma, Phi Eta Sigma, and the National Society of Collegiate Scholars.  

Among those we recognize are students who have completed internships, studied abroad and who have presented ground-breaking research in agriculture, biology, chemistry, nursing, physics, psychology, engineering and many other fields. Also among today’s honorees are students who have been inducted into Who’s Who Among America’s College Students, or have been nominated for prestigious national awards, such as the Goldwater, Truman, Boren, Fulbright, and Rhodes Scholarships.

Throughout all of these activities and endeavors, Western Illinois University’s faculty and staff have supported these stellar students. I want to thank Dr. Rick Hardy, Dean of the Centennial Honors College, and his award-winning staff, who provide a tremendous amount of support for students in the Centennial Honors College. They are dedicated and committed to our honors students and trust me when I say that these students were in good hands. Let’s give these individuals a round of applause.

As you have learned, success is all in your attitude and your approach to life. What are your goals? What are your desires and your dreams? How much are you willing to do, how much effort are you willing to put in to achieve these goals and reach your dreams? What kinds of accomplishments do you want to serve as your lasting legacy? Here at Western, you began to shape your future and you must continue to mould and shape your life into what you want it to be. You are only limited by your ability to dream big.

However, in order to be successful, you must have the grit and determination to follow through on your dreams. If you want to get to the top of the mountain, you must first picture yourself there. Seek your goals and in doing so, you will find your true self. Reflect on your goals and evaluate your progress toward them often. It is important to constantly reevaluate your lives and set new goals as old ones are achieved.

We should live as Robert Schuller says, “peak-to-peek,” conquering one peak and then peeking over the top to find another mountain to climb. To avoid wandering through life with no direction, you need to set goals and strive to achieve them with passion and determination.

Greatness rests at the peak of the mountain, but sustained greatness lies with peeking beyond the mountain and pursuing the next challenge. If you want to be successful, surround yourself with positive individuals who are going to inspire you, who are going to support you and who are going to keep you on the cutting edge. You do not have time for toxic people who bring negative aspects to your lives. In the book, “Live Your Dreams,” by Les Brown, he says, “There are two types of people in your life. Those who nourish you, and those who drain you. Those who help you grow, and those who are toxic to your growth.”

As you commence into the next stage of your life, it is time to mount up your wings and continue to soar. Greatness rests on the mount of achievement, which you have reached today. Your potential resides at the peak of that next mount and negative conditions will melt away when you believe in and recognize your potential. The realization of your unbounded potential will propel you to new and ever-greater heights.

The concepts of “today” and “the future” mean that whatever has happened in your past is of little consequence to you now. Moving forward, it does not matter if your past was bright or dark, successful or riddled with failure. What matters is that you continue to strive, continue to seek, continue to grow and continue to reach for greatness.

Graduates, nothing can stop you but your limited thinking. Creativity is an ability given to us at birth, and thankfully, it cannot be lost. However, it may go into hiding and become dormant if you do not use it. If you wish to explore your full potential and identify new opportunities for high achievement, you must challenge your creative powers. You must reach to new limits and explore the possibilities from a global perspective. I encourage you to not be afraid of failure, but to move forward with hope, with determination and with grit.

Graduates, we honor you today with this special ceremony to recognize and show appreciation for your achievements and successes. We look forward to watching you reach peak after peak as you work to realize your unbounded potential. Remember, greatness rests on the peaks of the mountains.

Thank you and all the best in your future endeavors.