Address By Tricia Pollard At May 17, 2008, Commencement Ceremonies


SHSU Regent Trisha Pollard

Thank you President Gaertner, faculty, parents, family members, and especially, graduates. It is a tremendous honor and a privilege to come back to our great campus to be with you today to celebrate your accomplishments. Congratulations to all of our graduates!

My daughter Jenny reminded me that no one will remember what I say today, but only how long I took to say it. So I promise to be brief if you promise to listen!

After high school, I finished a year of junior college in Corpus Christi, did my research and discovered the best College of Business Administration was at Sam Houston State University. And it still is!

Over the years, I had kinda forgotten about my research, but was recently reminded by my college roommate, Cheryl Brown Huber, another COBA graduate. Cheryl and her husband Steve are with us today from Garland.

Cheryl, the campus sure has changed since we were here 33 years ago, hasn't it?

I can't quite describe to y'all what a special moment it is when you see your old college dorm, Smith/Kirkley, on the demolition list.

Back to the summer of 1972 for a moment - I packed up all my belongings in a steamer trunk - not the U-Haul that kids bring nowadays - and my parents put me on a Greyhound bus in Premont, Texas bound for Huntsville, Texas.

They told me, "You get to town, you call the Presbyterian preacher and ask him to take you over to the college."

I did, and he did, and bless his heart - Rev. Carroll Pickett even went back to the bus station the next day to collect my trunk that didn't arrive with me, and brought it to me at the dorm!

I walked up 19th Street to attend his Presbyterian Church every Sunday for the 2-1/2 years it took me to finish my degree.

I invited Rev. Pickett to be with us today, so he could know what a difference he made to me.

Some of you may know he has written a book called Within These Walls, a powerful story about his unique career and his experiences over the
last 15 years with inmates in the death house.

Rev. Pickett is under contract this month for speaking engagements, book signings and promoting the movie based on his book, and so was unable to attend, to hear me thank him again for coming to rescue this Bearkat.

When I graduated from law school in 1980, the commencement speaker told us "You have not slain the dragon."

Now after going to law school for 3-1/2 years, while working full-time at Transco, I was quite disappointed to hear this, but then he said "But you have won the right to slay the dragon."

And my friends, that is what you have done - you have won the right to slay the dragon.

By earning your college degree, you have demonstrated your belief in the value of education.

Texas cannot meet its goal of increasing the number of college graduates without increasing participation.

A college degree is not just a social necessity; it's an economic imperative for the state of Texas.

Do everything you can to encourage people, young and old, into the higher education system, and especially Sam Houston State!

So much of education is based on reading, and I am a big proponent of reading.

When my son Jonathan was in kindergarten, I spent many of my lunch hours going to his school so I could read to his class.

The children sat on the floor in a semi-circle around my chair, and I held the book in my lap.

They were so impressed that I could read upside-down, but they were more impressed with the little poem I recited to them at the beginning, and at the end, of each of our reading sessions.

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 I had bought at the hardware store.

Unfortunately, the responsibilities of my various jobs kept me from being able to read to Jonathan's class beyond his kindergarten year.

Jonathan is now a freshman in high school, but the summer before his eighth grade year, I went to pick him up from church camp, and as got to
the room where parents were to collect their campers, this boy was standing in the doorway and said "Your son is over there."

I was taken aback, and said "How did you know who my son is?"

He said "I remember you - you came to read to us in kindergarten."

And then he said "Reading is the magic key; that takes you where you want to be."

And he very shyly tugged at his neck and pulled out a necklace, with the blank key attached to it!

That story of course tells 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.

Education is the magic key - that'll take you where you want to be. You're already partway there, but keep going!

The educational experience is a life-long enterprise, and if we have taught you how to learn, we will have succeeded.

General Sam Houston, speaking of his own education, 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 receiving a classical education. Knowledge is the food of genius, and . . . let no opportunity escape you to treasure up knowledge."

Don't you just love that - "treasure up knowledge"?

Too many young people today equate technological know-how with education.

Just because you know the difference between Blu-Ray and BlueTooth, how to download digital pictures for your dad, program a VCR for your mom, or 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.

Your new degree is just the beginning of your education. Today, you are beginning a new phase of learning.

Embrace learning and life with enthusiasm.

Be optimistic about whatever you attempt. Randy Pausch, the terminally-ill Carnegie Mellon professor whose final lecture has been all over the Internet, says you've got to decide: if you're going to be an Eeyore, or if you're going to be a bouncy Tigger!

Have intense and positive feelings for your family, job, volunteer activities and recreation, and about your alma mater, this Grand Ole University.

Stay in touch with your alumni association, and give back to your university, particularly if you have been the beneficiary of a scholarship set up by someone.

From those to whom much has been given, much will be expected.

And even if you haven't benefited from someone's endowed scholarship fund, give back anyway, so that those who follow in your footsteps can,
as General Sam said, "treasure up knowledge."

Some of you have already found a career about which you are passionate. I wish that for each of you.

Do something you like to do. It's all about money, until you have it; then you'll discover it was never about money.

Bringing joy and passion and optimism to your work is not what you get to do when you get to the top. It is HOW you get to the top.

And if along the way, disappointments come along - and they will - don't be too hard on yourself.

Take rejection in stride and don't dwell on it.

I once had a call from an executive recruiter when I was working as an attorney for an energy marketing company.

I was fairly satisfied with my job at the time, but I must admit to you I was flattered that this headhunter thought I had a great resume to offer this company, which was, at the time, "THE place to work" in the energy marketing field.

So I decided to take my own advice of "don't ever pass up the chance for an interview" because:

So I said "Sure, you can send them my resume."

Well, he called me the next day to tell me the company was declining to interview me.

It seems I "didn't fit the corporate profile............ of Enron....."

I hope none of you COBA graduates ever do, either.

President Gaertner has given me 15 minutes, and in just a minute, I plan to give a bit of that back to you.

Use your time wisely - be judicious about the things that you allow to occupy your precious time on this earth.

Resist the media's incessant drivel of the "celebrity" cesspool culture.

The latest trip to rehab/eating disorder/arrest/divorce/criminal trial/____fill in the blank____ of Britney, Lindsay, Nicole, Paris and other people you don't even know just does not matter in the greater scheme of things.

The book of Ecclesiastes says "The people worshipped worthless idols, and the people became worthless."

When you leave this campus, some of you will start a career you have been preparing for; others of you may continue your education at Sam
Houston State or elsewhere; still others of you may resume your career, energized with your new master's degree.

Please know this - there are more people than you can imagine out there ready, willing and waiting to help you, just like Rev. Carroll Pickett!

All you have to do is ask. And keep asking until you get the help you need.

Twelve publishers turned down the opportunity to publish the first Harry Potter book.

Of course, the 13th hit the jackpot, but remember the author had to ask and ask and keep asking.

So whatever your dreams, whatever your plans, pursue them now.... don't wait!

I leave you with this verse from Proverbs 16:3 - "Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed!"

So get out there and slay that dragon! God Bless you, and God Bless Texas! Congratulations!!



- END -

SHSU Media Contacts: Frank Krystyniak
May 19, 2008
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