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Graduation ceremony

is TSU’s last of century

By MICHELLE J. WILSON

Staff Writer

Dec. 19, 1999 10 PM

Troy State University held its last commencement ceremony of the 20th century Friday, with 365 students receiving degrees.

Graduates and their families heard advice from a man who has dedicated his life to education.

Ed Richardson, state superintendent of education, told graduates they are leaving school in a time when "brain power, management of information and organization of new technology" are the marks of successful leaders.

Richardson said the graduates must be ready to compete globally and learn to adapt when change comes.

"Change will occur whether you like it or not," he said. "Embrace it with the thought of how it will help others."

Richardson, who spent his first year of college at TSU, said he offered "his sincere congratulations to the graduates on achieving this milestone."

He told the group they are the "most rapidly aging people in this country" because in two weeks, they will have to say they graduated in the previous century.

The state superintendent urged students to learn from their failures "which will be more numerous than your successes."

Richardson also said, "Don’t judge people by their appearance or credentials – they are frequently more capable than you realize."

He illustrated both of these points with a story about American inventor Thomas Edison, who is credited with creating the light bulb. Edison tried 1,200 light bulb filaments before he found one that worked.

"Your success will increase dramatically if you don’t concede to failure," he said.

Richardson also encouraged graduates to carefully consider their choices as they begin life after college.

"The best preparation for the future is to make the right decisions now," he said. "The decisions you make now will have an effect 20 years later."

He told the story of rocket scientist Robert Goddard, whose research in the1920s was rejected in his homeland of America, only to be adopted by scientists in Nazi Germany. His research unwittingly gave Germany a technological edge in the field of rocketry and missile design.

"If we had adopted Goddard’s research, how many lives would have been spared in World War II," Richardson said.

In welcoming remarks preceding Richardson’s address, Jack Hawkins Jr., chancellor of the Troy State University System, pointed out that Troy State University has "undergone a revolutionary

transformation" in the last 100 years. He said that in 1899 there were 195 students attending Troy Normal School, compared to more than 18,000 students enrolled in the TSU System today.

Some things have not changed at Troy State University, Hawkins said.

"Even as we have grown in size during the 20th century, quality has remained our focus," he said.

The ceremony, held in Sartain Hall on the TSU campus, also featured the presentation of an honorary doctor of humanities degree to Richardson.