PULLMAN, Wash. — More than 2,250 students — 2,000 undergraduates and 250 graduate and professional — took part in the three 2003 Commencement ceremonies today at Washington State University.
Kathi Goertzen, news anchor for Seattle’s KOMO-TV; Jack Creighton Jr., former president and chief executive officer of Weyerhaeuser Co., and Jerry Quinn Lee, chief executive officer of MulvannyG2 Architecture, delivered addresses during the university’s 107th spring commencement in Beasley Performing Arts Coliseum.
Goertzen, a 1980 WSU graduate, spoke as part of the 8 a.m. ceremony for the College of Liberal Arts. Creighton’s address highlighted the 11:30 a.m. ceremony for the College of Business and Economics and College of Education. Lee’s speech was part of the 3 p.m. ceremony for the colleges of Agriculture and Home Economics, Engineering and Architecture, Nursing, Pharmacy, Sciences, and Veterinary Medicine.
Scott Dickinson, president of the Associated Students of WSU, also spoke, and WSU President V. Lane Rawlins presided at each of the ceremonies.
Goertzen said in a way she feels she has come full circle to the very moment nearly 23 years ago, “when I was sitting as a WSU graduate…Full of excitement, and anticipation of the unknown.
“But 23 years ago, I would not know how well this university had prepared me for what was to come,” she said. “And I would not yet fully understand the two most important lessons I learned that I’d like to share with you.
“In the world that awaits you beyond the wheat fields of the Palouse, no one can say what your true colors will be. I know if you’re like me, you’ll bleed crimson and gray!
But I hope you’ll consider making two special choices,” the Seattle broadcaster said. “They are: Make mistakes. And give back.”
Taking risks is usually okay, she said. But that doesn’t mean there will be no consequences for serious lapses of judgment or character. Risks are courageous.
“As you go out into the world and pursue your careers or the next step in your lives, don’t worry when you stumble,” Goertzen said. “Just remember that success is really nothing more than a succession of failures.
“Give back, she also told the audience. “Serving the community is an honor. It’s a privilege.
“Now I’m not saying you need to leave this university and focus only on giving, the speaker said. “But your challenge is to find work that has meaning and that also gives you some enjoyment every day. Believe in something larger than yourself and get involved in some of the big issues of your time.
“Give back to your university,” Goertzen said. “So much has changed but much is the same as when I sat in your seat 23 years ago…the same excitement…the same fears… and the same foundation you have from a wonderful institution…sound and stable roots from which you will grow and blossom.”
Jack Creighton’s Address
Creighton emphasized the importance – and responsibility – of leadership from WSU graduates.
“Many of you have been leaders here at Washington State University or in other venues,” Creighton said. “Every one of you has the potential to take on leadership responsibilities as your life progresses. And I would like to add, that every one of you has not only the potential but the responsibility to take on that leadership.”
Leadership is an illusive subject, the former Weyerhaeuser Co. executive said. “It takes an objective, third party researcher who has done his or her homework to really understand the traits, character and elements of success of a great leader. To look at a leader’s life and accomplishments and to glean the heart of their success as a leader is a skill few people master.”
Are great leaders born or can an individual, through education and practice, become a great leader? Where does leadership come from? Is it in the genes or is it something developed in response to a challenge or a crisis? he asked.
“I’m not sure of the answer to these questions but like many things in life, I think the answer lies somewhere in the middle,” Creighton said.
“I’m sure you all have certain principles that guide you in your life, but are they written down or so well ingrained that you can just reel them off. If not, think about developing a set and putting them down on paper. They will put you in good stead and will make decisions and life much easier,” he said.
Jerry Q. Lee’s Address
Lee shared with graduates, family and friends what he feels is an important value today: generosity.
Lee, whose father emigrated from China in the 1930s and mother who came to the United States in an arranged marriage, had to endure prejudice against the Chinese. They eventually operated a small “mom and pop” grocery store. The store was located in a poor urban area, surrounded by a pensioner and homeless population. Never rich, they were still able to extend credit to anyone in need.
“As I look back, our store was never robbed or broken into in 35 years. I believe Dad’s goodwill created a protective halo around our store,” he said.
Some would say generosity—or compassion—is a poor investment. “And I’ll be honest, in some cases, they may be right. We have been trained for too long to fight for every scrap we earn and hoard our possessions, not realizing the rewards of giving back. But consider the many times you’ve been helped by the generosity of others and how it has contributed to your life.
“Yes, it’s hard when you’re getting started in your professional careers to even think that you can afford to help anyone but yourself for the time being. I urge you not to fall into that trap, because ‘now’ has a way of lasting much longer than necessary.
“Some of you are already involved in volunteering. For others, the thought has never crossed your mind. Most of us promise to get involved as soon as we have more time or money. Unfortunately, that day may never come. It’s best to start right now. I’m here to challenge you to do the right thing,” Lee said.
Before thinking money is the basis for generosity, he told the graduates to think again — about time:
* Physically being present to lend a hand.
* Stepping up to help because you can.
“You know those people who volunteer to help all the time? Try giving them a break—help carry the load,” Lee said. “So you’re probably noticing that part of being generous is basically being helpful. Think about that for a moment…Whenever you are being helpful, you’re being a generous person.
“Be helpful. Be generous.”
Give back to your family, Lee said. “They supported you emotionally, maybe financially—and possibly for years to come—to reach this goal today.
“Give back to your community and local charities. Find something that you feel passionate about. There are millions of good causes that can use your time and energy.
“Give back to this institution! You may be aware that our taxes are stretched so thinly that very few dollars go to higher education. Operating colleges is a very expensive and competitive business.
“The reason I’m telling you this is that you need to decide what type of person you’re going to be. It’s an actual decision. While it’s true that certain aspects of your personality will never change, you still need to make a conscious decision to operate a certain way in life. Hopefully, it’s in a manner that is…graceful.
“The act of giving does not necessarily come naturally. Sometimes it takes significant loss to teach us how to give. Sometimes we need to learn
by example. Find out how good it feels,” Lee said.