I didn’t take notes during Mary Schulte LoVerde’s graduation address to the Mount Mercy University class of 2012, so I may badly paraphrase her.
She predicted that few would recall her words—a safe bet for a graduation speaker. But, she did give the class some items to think about. Primarily, her speech was to debunk conventional wisdom about success that she said is often not true.
For example, “winners never quit.” She told how, when taking part in a dance competition, a dance champion told her she had made 50 mistakes in a 2-minute dance. She was a bit crushed, until the dancer explained that she had not made 50 different mistakes, primarily she had repeated one mistake 50 times. Quit doing extra moves that weren’t a part of the dance and her performance would improve.
In other words, often, winners know what to quit. Winning isn’t just bullishly moving forward, it’s also knowing what must be left behind. Often, Mary noted, that’s the real key, the real first step on the road to success—recognize what you are doing that is holding you back and stop doing it. Quit, and you can be a winner.
I don’t recollect exactly what the other points of conventional wisdom she attacked were—the curse of the graduation speaker coming true—except the antidotes were to recall that success is never a solo effort but happens in a network of connections to others, and that “faking it,” refusing to acknowledge limits, often sets you up for failure.
All in all, I thought, she was a fine speaker.
She wasn’t the highlight of the ceremony, however, at least not to me. That highlight came when the Mary Frances Warde Award was announced. MMU gives three top student honors during graduation events—two at commencement itself and one at Honors Convocation. The convocation award—the President’s Award—went to last year’s MMU Times Editor, Cynthia Petersen.
The two top commencement awards are the Catherine McAuley Award, for the student who enters MMU as a freshman, and the previously mentioned Mary Frances Warde Award, for the top transfer student. The president picks the winner of the president’s award, but the other awards are based not on GPA, but rather on a vote of faculty and staff.
And who was the transfer student of the year this year? None other than Ryan Pleggenkuhle, this year’s MMU Times editor.
There you have it, kids. It pays to be editor of the Times. Or, editors of the Times tend to be extraordinary students. Both ways of looking at it are true, I think, and also cool.
Sadly, both of these fine editors are graduating. That’s the nature of a university—just when students are at their best and most mature and most skilled, they slip away. The good news is that we will see them again, mostly—it was a great pleasure at today’s post-graduation picnic to touch base with some former students. But still, graduates have to commence—they have to leave the hill in order to succeed in the world.
Godspeed, class of 2012. I will miss you. Remember that there is an old man on this hill who would like to hear in the future what you’re doing.
For now, go do it.