Trisha Pollard and SHSU president Jim Gaertner.
Trisha Pollard relayed a simple message to outgoing Sam Houston State University students Saturday.
“Education is the magic key that will take you where you want to be. You’re already part way there, but keep going.”
The vice chair of the Texas State University System Board of Regents and 1974 SHSU graduate delivered the commencement address to 1,344 students during morning and afternoon ceremonies at Johnson Coliseum.
Combined with Friday evening’s 310 graduates, Saturday’s graduates (630 and 714) were among a record 1,654 students to receive diplomas during spring commencement.
“Your new degree is just the beginning of your education,” Pollard said as part of her keynote adress. “Today, you are beginning a new phase of learning. Embrace learning and life with enthusiasm.”
Pollard, now a Houston resident, relayed her message before standing room only crowds in the 6,100-seat coliseum as family and friends applauded and cheered throughout the ceremonies.
My daughter, Jenny, reminded me that no one will remember what I say today, but only how long I took to say it,” Pollard said. “So, I promise to be brief if you promise to listen!”
Pollard spoke of the commencement speaker’s address upon her graduation from law school in 1980.
“He told us, ‘You have not slain the dragon, but you have earned the right to slay the dragon,’” she said. “By earning your college degree you have demonstrated your belief in the value of education. A college degree is not just a social necessity; it’s an economic imperative for the state of Texas.”
Pollard also shared a past experience concerning her now teenage son, Jonathan, while he was in kindergarten.
“I spent many of my lunch hours going to his school so I could read to his class,” she said. “I told the children, ‘Reading is the magic key that takes you where you want to be,’ and near the end of the year I gave them blank keys.
“The summer before Jonathan’s eighth-grade year I went to pick him up from church camp, and a boy standing in the doorway said, ‘Your son is over there. I remember you; you came to read to us in kindergarten.’ ”
The boy then repeated back to her the phrase she had used so long ago in his kindergarten class.
“Then he very shyly tugged at his neck and pulled out a necklace with his blank key attached to it,” Pollard continued. “That story tells me the value of community service and the overwhelming impact that one person can have on a child’s life, but it also tells the value of instilling a love of reading and education in a child.”
Bringing her focus to Sam Houston himself, Pollard quoted Gen. Sam Houston.
“Speaking of his own education, he said, ‘It is a matter of great satisfaction to me . . . that my children will be in circumstances to receive a good education. Mine was defective and I feel the inconvenience, if not the misfortune of not having a classical education. Knowledge is the food of genius, and . . . let no opportunity escape you to treasure up knowledge.’ ”
Acknowledging the current technology abundance today, Pollard reminded graduates that there is no substitute for experience.
“Too many young people today equate technological know-how with education,” she said. “Just because you know the difference between Blu-Ray and Bluetooth and can send text messages does not mean you are smarter than our generation.
“Never in the field of human ignorance have so many known so little about so much. Just watch the Jaywalking segments on the Jay Leno Show to see the alarming arrogance of American ignorance.”
Pollard warned against falling victim to the celebrity craze.
“Resist the media’s incessant drivel of the ‘celebrity’ cesspool culture,” she said. “The latest trip to rehab/eating disorder/arrest/divorce/criminal trial of Britney, Lindsey, Nicole, Paris and other people you don’t even know just does not matter in the greater scheme of things.”
Bringing her commencement address full circle, Pollard left the graduates with her final wishes.
She said, “So, get out there and slay that dragon! God bless you, and God bless Texas!”
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Monday, May 3
Tuesday, May 4
"The measure of a Life is its Service."