President Stresses 'Virtues, Values' in Charting Postgraduate Path

Published 08.05.2012

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President Davie Jane Gilmour urged Saturday's graduates to transform the time spent and talents learned at Penn College into lives of lasting impact. As she also told their counterparts at May commencement, the president struck themes that cross generations and cultures alike – honesty, integrity, compassion, responsibility and obligation – in welcoming the newest members of a proud institution's "valued and virtuous history."

Virtues and Values

It is that time: a time that I look forward to until it arrives, because I know the moment will pass too quickly. I wish that time could stand still in this instant just before you leave us.

It is so rewarding for me to stand here and look at all of you and to know that the world will be better because you are in it.

You are special, not only to the people here today who love you. You are special because you have skills and you have opportunities to make a difference in the world. I want each of you to make the most of your skills and your opportunities.

You may call me an idealist. The mission and values of our college mean a lot to me. I want you to leave here knowing how important values and virtues will be throughout your life.

These sound like old-fashioned ideas, especially coming from the leader of a college that embraces new and emerging technologies. I believe, with all my heart, that progress is built on a foundation of basic principles that sustain us through the generations.

We may avoid conversations about steadfast values and virtues because we fear being seen as hypocrites if we fail to live up to such ideals or because we don’t want to risk offending  anyone whose culture or traditions differ from our own.

But, in the end, nothing should  stand in the way of communicating common values and virtues that strengthen our world.

In every culture, every tradition, there is a place for honesty, integrity, compassion, responsibility to help those who cannot help themselves and obligation to leave the world as good (or better) than we found it.

Rather than limiting our lives, values and virtues provide opportunities for each of us to make a profound difference.

When we are able to connect what we know up here (in our head) and what we know in here (in our heart) with what we do with these (our hands), we find true meaning and purpose in our lives.

I hope your Penn College education will help you to connect the knowledge in your head and the skills of your hands with the desires of your heart.

We all search for meaning.

Whether we choose a career as a designer, a builder, a product maker, a caregiver, an operator, a service provider, a manager or an educator, each of us wants to serve a purpose.

Understanding that our lives have value and committing our talents to making the world a better place are ways we can begin to live virtuous lives.

Each time you choose to do the right thing instead of taking the easy way out, you choose virtue.

When you patiently persist in pursuing noble goals through good times and bad, you choose virtue.

If you want to do more than just survive in this world, if you want to thrive and to be part of a thriving community, then let every action you take be a virtuous act.

Avoid the traits that are opposite of virtue – traits such as arrogance, indulgence, complacency and greed.

In every culture, every tradition, there is a difference between virtue and selfish living. Our communities need us to be selfLESS, to be humble servants even in – especially in – our success. It is our civil responsibility to live and work in ways that support not only our individual interests but also the interests of our community.

As college graduates, you will be leaders in your workplaces and your communities. The ways that you express your values, through your words and your actions, will impact the lives of others. Others will follow your examples in leading virtuous lives.

The great philosopher Socrates said, "The greatest way to live with honor in this world is to be what we pretend to be.

Pretending is not enough.

Intending to do the right thing – later – is not enough.

We have seen how even the mighty can fall when they fail to do what’s right, when they fail to be who they pretended to be.

Who will you be?

Your college years have helped you to define the kind of person you want to become. But the work does not end when you earn your degree. The work is just beginning.

How has this experience of college changed you? How will you use your experience to change the world?

Throughout your life, you will make important life-changing decisions. You will transition from one place – one purpose – to another.

Jobs will change. You will move to new places and meet new people. You will start families and watch your children grow. One day, you will even plan for your retirement.

In all of your decisions and all of your transitions, the same questions will rise again:

  • Who are you?

  • What kind of person do you want to be?

Your values and virtues will follow you throughout the years of your lives.

Be steadfast in your commitments. Be resilient as you face challenges and changes in your life. Be ready to give your time and your talent to support something greater than yourself. Be of value to others and be a shining example of a virtuous life.

In his book, "The Way of the Peaceful Warrior," author Dan Millman writes: "Use whatever knowledge you have but see its limitations. Knowledge alone does not suffice; it has no heart. No amount of knowledge will nourish or sustain your spirit; it can never bring you ultimate happiness or peace. Life requires more than knowledge; it requires intense feeling and constant energy. Life demands right action if knowledge is to come alive."

I urge you to greet your life with energy and enthusiasm and to employ your knowledge, your values and your virtue in creating the life you most desire.

Today, you become part of a proud tradition as you join our Penn College alumni association.

For nearly 100 years, our institution has been changing lives and impacting communities. Please stay in touch with us as you make your mark on the world. And come back often to share your gifts and talents with us and with future Penn College students.

Now it really is time. I can’t hold onto the moment any longer.

Class of 2012, you are now part of the valued and virtuous history of Pennsylvania College of Technology.