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DiPietro tells grads to ‘savor’ the moment

DiPietro tells grads to ‘savor’ the moment
University of Tennessee President Joe DiPietro advised UT Martin graduates to “savor this moment” as they prepared to receive degrees during the university’s spring commencement exercises Saturday at the Kathleen and Tom Elam Center.
DiPietro both delivered the commencement address and conferred degrees during the larger of two annual UT Martin commencement events.
“For those of us – faculty, staff, administrators and others – who watch the coming and going of students, a commencement ceremony gives us a great sense of accomplishment at your success,” he said.
“For you, it means the culmination of many years of hard work, many years of learning, trials, tribulations. … For your parents and family, it is an emotional and joyous time.”
To further highlight the day’s importance, the UT president referenced two points from the book “10½ Things No Commencement Speaker Has Ever Said” by Dr. Charles Wheelan.
The book is based on a commencement speech the author gave at Dartmouth College.
“First, as Wheelan says, ‘It’s all borrowed time,’” DiPietro said.
“That is not something a commencement speaker would normally tell an audience of soon-to-be college graduates. The rest of your life is ahead of you, and yes, many of you have decades left to pursue a career, raise a family, go on a vacation and retire.”
He used the author’s advice in urging graduates to pursue opportunities and live full lives.
“What Wheelan says is don’t have regrets, don’t take anything for granted,” DiPietro said. He advised the audience to “play hard and have some fun” and take time to love someone. “And every day you should give thanks for having another day,” he added. “The second item I’ll mention from the book is your time in a fraternity or sorority, or in extracurricular clubs or events, was well spent here at UT Martin,” DiPietro said. These additional activities develop friendships and memories that won’t be forgotten, he said.
“Those experiences make a difference in your life and broaden who you are as a person.”
DiPietro reminded the audience that higher education has seen its share of news coverage in recent times.
“The state of our economy has made everyone examine the value of everything, and that is true of college degrees as well.” He noted the cost of tuition, the investment of time and the value of a degree in finding a job.
For those graduating and questioning whether college was worth it, he said, “I can give you an emphatic and a big fat ‘Yes.’” From personal experience, he said that each of his degrees has improved his life, although achieving these degrees wasn’t easy. He noted statistics that show college degrees are worth $1 million more in earning potential over a lifetime compared to a high school diploma only.
For those not finding work within their chosen major, he said, “Let me encourage you to be flexible and open-minded about jobs.” He used his own veterinary medicine degree as an example, noting that he first worked as a practicing veterinarian, moved into teaching and research, and then into higher education administration. Today, he applies problem-solving skills learned in the veterinary medicine profession in his role as UT president.
“You need to lay out a plan, but remain flexible and grasp opportunities as you may wish throughout your career.”
He also advised graduates to prepare for changes in life and to embrace them.
“Life and careers present you with unexpected opportunities as well, and it will be up to you to take a chance, to be bold, to have faith and go for it,” he said, adding, “Be excited for the opportunities to face change, because it will stretch your intellect, and it’s likely to maximize your successes.”
DiPietro emphasized that college graduates are in a position to accomplish great things. “Do something before others consider doing it – you know, like those Facebook or Google folks,” he said. “I encourage you to do what you can to make a positive difference in this world. Or, as Charles Wheelan says in his book, ‘Don’t make the world worse.’
“You don’t have to cure cancer or be the next Internet sensation to be successful or make difference. But if you do, I’m sure our development office will be in touch with you,” he added, drawing laughs from the audience.
He closed by highlighting three points in the University of Tennessee mission.
“We educate, we discover and we connect,” he said, and challenged graduates to educate, discover and connect in their own lives as well.
Dr. Tom Rakes, UT Martin chancellor, welcomed the audience and presided over the event. He recognized the university’s 2012 Outstanding Faculty Award recipients and acknowledged the families, friends and supporters of the graduates in attendance. In turn, he asked graduates to stand and applaud those who supported them through their college experience.

WCP 5.08.12