Graduates were urged to tap into their inner wisdom and make decisions that align with their passions at West Virginia University’s commencement ceremonies Saturday (Dec. 21).
“On this journey, there is no Google Maps or WAZE app to guide you,” Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Maryanne Reed told graduates. “Thanks to your education at West Virginia University, you now have the tools and knowledge to be successful in the world.”
Two distinguished alumnae, both of whom are a testament to listening to their own instincts instead of outside voices, no matter how influential, returned home to address more than 2,600 graduates in two separate ceremonies at the Coliseum.
Equipped with the right tools and knowledge to lead with compassion, Dr. Patrice Harris, the first African American woman to become the president of the American Medical Association, delivered the keynote address and was awarded a presidential honorary degree during the afternoon ceremony.
“As each of you takes the next steps in your careers, you will need to discover your authentic voice and stand firm against the headwinds that will sometimes try to knock you off course,” Harris said.
“Graduates, we need each of you to stand in your authentic voice.”
Harris, pointing to her head and then her heart, continued, “And I can guarantee, that when you stand in your authentic voice you will know up here and feel in here, that you have done the right thing.”
Nesha Sanghavi, a 2008 graduate of the now John Chambers College of Business and Economics, addressed graduates in the morning ceremony emphasizing the importance of harnessing intuition and not listening to the critics when faced with tough decisions.
These qualities helped Sanghavi become a force in the women’s sports licensed apparel industry, growing her brand to include 250 university contracts.
The alumna described changing her major to finance as a pivotal moment in her life.
“You may have also grown up believing there was a certain path already laid out for you, but if it doesn’t feel right, don’t be afraid to make a change and figure it out as you go,” Sanghavi said. “Take chances and stay open to any all opportunities that may cross your path. And if you stay focused and persistent, and always trust your gut, you’ll land on your feet and accomplish things that may only seem like a dream now.”
Among those who crossed the stage Saturday was John Kolar, who has passion for math and science, but also discovered a love for music at age 12.
When deciding a career path, his heart led him to WVU to study electrical engineering, physics and music technology— a combination that he hopes will land him a job in the audio industry.
President Gordon Gee, who is recovering from a hip replacement surgery, addressed the graduates in a video, may have been thinking of Kolar when recorded his message.
“Mountaineer determination will guide you. The skills and strengths you honed here will advance you, and the goodwill of 200,000 other West Virginia University graduates will sustain you,” Gee said.
Also graduating Saturday was Peggy Runyon, a 20-year veteran of the University Police Department who followed her inner calling as a non-traditional, first-generation student and earned her Regents Bachelor of Arts degree.
And Kadeisha Buchanan, whose passion led her to become the most decorated player in WVU women’s soccer history and win the Bronze medal in the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics with the Canadian women’s soccer team, returned to Morgantown to graduate with a multidisciplinary studies degree. Former WVU football standout Noel Devine also walked the stage.
“Lots and lots of people, including the people who love you best, will have ideas about what you should do and where you should go. But in the end, the most exciting journey is the one you chart for yourself,” Reed said. “Find out what motivates you, what inspires you, what gives your life meaning and purpose.”
“You can never be lost if you follow your own internal compass, by paying attention to what your head is telling you, and, more importantly, by listening to your heart.”