Covington mayor urges grads to help others
Posted: Thursday, December 18, 2008 10:04 am
The Messenger 12.18.08
Dr. David Gordon, alumnus and Covington mayor, stood behind the podium during Saturday’s commencement at the University of Tennessee at Martin and told fall graduates, “UT Martin feels like home.”
It should. Four generations of Gordon’s family have attended the institution, beginning with his grandmother, who road horseback to Hall-Moody Institute (UT Martin’s predecessor) to get a teaching certificate.
His father attended junior college at Martin before transferring to the Knoxville campus.
Gordon and his siblings — including J. Houston Gordon, Covington attorney and former University of Tennessee Board of Trustees member — and nephews and cousins attended UT Martin.
Now, his oldest daughter, Jane, is a student.
Gordon congratulated graduates and their friends and family members who have supported them.
“No one gets to this day without the help of others,” he said before quickly turning his remarks to the future.
“While today represents an important milestone in your life, it is important to ask yourself ‘What is my next goal?,’” he said.
Gordon, who was in the first graduating class of the UT College of Veterinary Medicine, reminded them about the value of their education.
“As we celebrate your graduation, you may be feeling a little bit apprehensive. Your education at UT Martin has prepared you well to meet life’s challenges,” he said.
Gordon then suggested that with an education comes responsibility — a responsibility to help others achieve. He recounted a true story illustrating why the graduates should use their education and abilities to make the world a better place.
Several years ago, Gordon had the opportunity to take two Covington grade-school children to a Memphis Grizzlies basketball game. When they turned on Mud Island Road en route to the game, he heard the children ask, “What’s that?” when they saw the Mississippi River.
“Our society often criticizes kids like this when they do not do well in school, are not successful in life and maybe end up in trouble,” he said. “What I would say to the critics is this: How can we, as a society, expect kids ... to succeed in this world if the totality of their universe does not reach a mere 19 miles so that they had experienced the Mississippi River — the largest river in North America? Who knows what else they had not experienced?
“There are children like this in every community, town and city throughout Tennessee and the nation,” he said.
“The degree that you are about to receive is a tremendous accomplishment. I hope that as you start the next phase of life, you will quickly look for ways to share the blessing of an education. Wherever home is now or will be in the future, whether in Tennessee or somewhere else, as recent college graduates, you are uniquely positioned to influence and encourage middle school and high school students to go on to seek a college degree.”
In closing, Gordon urged graduates to “live life with passion and compassion” and added, “Remember, it is not enough to do the right thing. Do the right thing the right way.”
The graduates represented 42 Tennessee counties, as well as Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Mis-souri, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, Canada, Jamaica, Japan, South Africa, South Korea and Taiwan.
Also attending the ceremony were Dr. Bonnie Yegidis, UT vice president for academic affairs and student success; Sylvia Davis, UT vice president for strategic planning and operations; and Dr. Katie High, UT chief of staff.
UT Martin Chancellor Dr. Tom Rakes presided over the exercises and conferred degrees.
“Graduates, we are proud of you. You can be proud of your UT degree,” Rakes said. “Your potential for success has increased significantly.”
commencement, Covington Mayor Dr. David Gordon, University of Tennessee at Martin