A commencement of diversity

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 16, 2001

Features Editor

Three hundred and ninety students from 21 states, Puerto Rico and 13 foreign countries received diplomas from Troy State University during the fall semester commencement exercise yesterday.

Jack Hawkins Sr., chancellor of the Troy State University System, addressed the graduates and told them they must now be the changes that are wanted and needed in this world.

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He outlined four objectives for the graduates: To be good, contributing citizens, to speak well of their alma mater, to remember they are special and, last but not least, let the university know where they are and what they are doing.

Hawkins introduced keynote speaker, Troy Mayor Jimmy Lunsford, and praised him for his leadership that has fostered an outstanding "town and gown" relationship between the city and its university.

Lunsford said his love for Troy State and his pride in the university make it easy for him to be committed to the continuing growth and development of all aspects of TSU.

The mayor passed along to the graduates, bits of wisdom that will make traveling life’s often bumpy roads a little smoother.

"Have a sense of humor," Lunsford said. "A sense of humor is the basis of a positive attitude. And, don’t be a critic. A statue has never been built to a critic. Be of service to others. Get involved. The opportunities to make the world a better place are unlimited. You have the world at your fingertips. Technology has opened many doors for you, so take advantage of every opportunity."

Lunsford reminded the graduates that the educational process never ends.

"Today is just the beginning," he said. "The education you have received is a foundation to build on to get a ‘real’ education.

"Be open to new ideas; listen to those who have guided you; care about people and do for others. Continue to strive and don’t be afraid to fail. You learn little from success, but much from failure."

But above all, Lunsford challenged the graduates to be happy, continue to learn and expand their horizons.

Among the graduates, who chose wear the cap and gown and take the momentous walk, was an young man who was unique among the masses.

Jason Reeves is the youngest official to be elected to the Troy City Council and, probably, one of the few city council members anywhere to receive a college degree while in office.

For Reeves, Dec. 14, 2001, was a very special day.

Receiving a college degree was the fulfillment of a longtime promise to himself and, that it happened on the 56th wedding anniversary of his grandparents, Homer and Sally Reeves, made it even more meaningful.

"My grandmother had been praying for me to get my degree," Reeves said.

"This day is the answer to that prayer and a great anniversary gift for my grandparents." 

Reeves had put college on the back burner for a long time, but always promised himself that he would get a degree before he turned 30 years old.

"I’m 29, so I got in under the wire," he said, laughing. "It’s taken me six or seven years to get this diploma because of work and being involved with the city. And, too, I got married and started a family. I really appreciate my wife, Elly, who has tolerated, and supported,

me in my determination to get a college degree."

With a family, a job and a commitment to public service, Reeves seemed to have his plate full. What was the need for a degree?

"It was just something I wanted and something my family wanted me to accomplish," he said. "My degree is in criminal justice. That’s what I started in 10 years ago and I just stayed with it, but I don’t have a desire to go into any kind of law enforcement."

However, Reeves said his early goal was to be an attorney and he’s still not ruling that out.

"One day, I might be interested in a politics on a larger scale," he said. "Maybe on the state level."

But, right now, he’s the dad of two young sons in diapers, Will and Drew, and he isn’t sure how much time he will have to devote to public service.

"I enjoy public service and as long as I have the time and energy, I plan to continue," he said. "But, today, I’m going to take some time off and enjoy being a college graduate, because Saturday Elly is going to Atlanta to see "The Nutcracker." She’ll be gone overnight and I’ll have the boys by myself."

That’s going to be a real challenge – even for a brand new college graduate.

"A real challenge," Reeves said, laughing. "I hope I’m up to it."