WHEELING – Wheeling University kick-off speaker Chase Watts told the Class of 2022 that by keeping character, courage and community in their minds and hearts, they will succeed in life.
During the ceremony, university president Ginny R. Favede conferred degrees on undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral students.
The Ohio State Highway Patrolman, a native of Martins Ferry, Ohio, was the speaker at the University’s 64th launch drills on Saturday. He also received an honorary doctorate in human letters.
Instead of telling “funny detective stories,” Watts decided to offer graduates a message that would encourage and inspire them on their special day. He said the words character, courage and community “will motivate you every day of your life if you let them.”
Character, he told graduates, is what will set them apart from others and passed on a saying his father once told him. “Son, no matter where you go, your mere presence should change the mood of the room. And if words ever attack you, your character will defend you. Watts added, “Your character defines you, not your situation.”
A few years ago, Watts said he came across a formula: Event + Response = Outcome. To manage this formula, he says, requires courage and strength of heart. “The response is greatest when the event is most difficult. The more difficult the event, the greater the demand on your response. Courage is about making your response stronger than the event… It takes courage to identify your passions. It takes courage to embrace your passions. However, it takes the most courage to pursue your passions.
Watts said he learned through his own experiences the importance of serving the community. Service is, Watts explains, deeper than her profession, it’s about stepping out of your comfort zone. “I have always felt that God gave me the gift of inspiring those around me and bringing people together. One of the main reasons I started a community organization is that I recognized and embraced my character traits and had the courage to take action.
The Ohio State Trooper founded two programs—Books with Badges and Project PAST (Positive Actions Shaping Teens)—both of which provide positive role models for youth in the community.
In conclusion, Watts said, “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, we should use time creatively and know that the time is always right to do good. He told graduates to embrace Dr. King’s words and “always be you and stay true to what you believe in.” It’s your power, and it’s your chance to be the change. Go ahead and claim it!
Before presenting diplomas to 2022 graduates, Favede told graduates they should be commended for their incredible resilience after enduring a global pandemic. “It’s always about lasting. It’s always about sticking with something long enough to finish. The lessons you take away from this experience will serve you for a lifetime.
She added: “Class of 2022, I love you dearly. I am proud of you and who you have become. I have seen you grow. I have seen you evolve. I have seen you become enlightened… You have been educated to be men and women for and with others Create beauty in our world by sharing your gifts and making the world a better place to live.
The class of 2022 also heard from valedictorian Olivia Zampedro, a native of Mentor, Ohio. She told her classmates, “Regardless of our reasons for choosing Wheeling University a few years ago, we are all here today to celebrate our accomplishments and victories both individually and as a team. as a school community, and the journey we all started on to our future destinations.
The University honored Dr. Homayoun Hajiran, Professor of Finance and Economics, with the Fr. Edward Gannon, SJ Outstanding Teaching Award. Each year, Wheeling University awards two medals at the launch to graduates who have distinguished themselves in both service and academics. The Mary Woomer Medal and the Archbishop John J. Swint Medals are awarded to the woman and man of the class who best exemplifies the ideals of Wheeling University. Olivia Zampedro received the Woomer Medal, while Hayden Scudder received the Swint Medal.
This year, the University had a special guest speaker, James Brooks, a member of the Class of 2022. He offered his classmates three Bible verses that “led me to my greatest victory in life… to help you achieve a victory in life too.”
He said Matthew 16:18 said, “I will build my church upon this solid rock, and the gate of hell shall not prevail.” Brooks reminded the class of the story of the three little pigs and how the last pig built his house out of bricks. “Because the Last Pig chose to use a solid foundation, his house stood when adversity tried to topple it.” He told his fellow graduates to build their lives on solid foundations. “Jesus Christ…we have this solid foundation. When our lives are built on him…no storm life throws at us can bring us down.
Brooks then quoted Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” He offered this advice: “I know many of us are nervous about not going to school and starting our lives…Don’t let the things of this world tie you down and tell you that you can’t do anything. You have God whose strength is unmatched. He is always with you and he will never leave you.
Finally, he offered to Romans, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
“Life constantly tells us that we are not good enough, and I want you to know that you are good enough and loved unconditionally. Now go and be safe