From the desk of President Leslie K. Guice
Ever Loyal: Corre Stegall – Summer 2015 Commencement Address
I was thrilled to have Vice President Emerita Corre Stegall serve as the Summer 2015 Commencement Speaker. Corre became Tech’s first female vice president in 2002 and has been a vital component of the cabinets of both President Dan Reneau and myself. Through her leadership, Corre has helped to shape the institution in many ways, particularly through the many private gifts she has secured and through her personal involvement in the development of new facilities and other campus improvements. She is a highly recognized national leader as former National President of Kappa Delta Sorority and chairperson of the Kappa Delta Foundation. Corre is a walking encyclopedia of Louisiana Tech. She has more knowledge of Tech’s history and more personal connections with Tech’s alumni, faculty, staff & students than any other person in Louisiana Tech’s history. For so many people, Corre Stegall represents the face of the university and she has made so many of our students, alumni and friends feel right at home when they come to campus. I am not sure if Corre is the one who first coined the phrase “Tech Family”, but certainly, she has played a pivotal role in making that phrase a reality for so many people. Here is her inspiring address to our Summer graduates: Thank you, President Guice. It’s such an honor for me to have this opportunity; I was amazed when you asked me to do this…and after talking to a few of the graduates as they were joyfully lining up, I’m not the only one who’s amazed to be here today! I once heard that a speaker at commencement is like the corpse at an Irish wake…you know that you’re going to have one, but you hope it doesn’t say anything! It’s a special joy to address this group of graduates…for most of you receiving your bachelor’s degrees, I just might have been one of the first administrators you saw at Tech…whether at a Time Out for Tech…at Orientation…or at the Freshman Convocation. And my message to you at those times was that you’d made a fantastic choice to pursue your education at Louisiana Tech University. At orientation, I assured your parents that if you did your part, Tech would do its part—and here you are, proving me right! And I thank you for that!! I realize you have a million things running through your heads right now…walking across this stage and getting your diploma at the top of the list. This is, after all, a commencement—the end of one phase of your life, and the beginning of another. In these few minutes, I hope to help you put this moment into perspective…maybe help you realize just what you’ve accomplished, how proud you should be, and offer just a little sage advice for your future. Your families and friends and mentors have had a big part in making this day possible and they are and should be very proud. I know firsthand the feelings they have…it’s a great day for them, too. This has been a group effort… I’ve never forgotten something one of my professor mentors told me the day I received my graduate degree…he said, “Corre…look at yourself as the turtle who found itself on top of a fencepost…you had help getting where you are, and don’t forget it.” At the end of this ceremony, you will have a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree from Louisiana Tech University. Thousands of students will receive similar degrees this month at colleges and universities all over the country. You, however, fall into a distinguished, almost unique group of graduates, and here’s why. First of all, you will be a graduate of a Tier 1 National University according to US News and World Report’s highly competitive ranking…that alone distinguishes you and your university in the eyes of prospective employers and everybody else who really counts! According to AdvisorOne, a national authority, and the Wall Street Journal, you will receive a significant overall return on the financial investment you’ve made in this degree when compared to graduates of all universities in the state of Louisiana…and in the nation, as well. For the Wall Street Journal, we’re #5 in the nation among the Best public universities for return on investment based on projected salaries over the next 20 years. PayScale.com agrees—they report that Tech graduates have the highest average starting salaries and highest mid career salaries among graduates of all universities in this state. ALL universities in the state. Are you seeing visions of your new car yet? Just weeks ago, Forbes Magazine’s List of America’s Top Colleges for 2015 was released with Tech highly ranked…and the newspaper headlines said “Tech given another top ranking in nation.” We’re justifiably proud of that…but Tech wasn’t GIVEN that ranking…Tech earned it. And because you’re smart and earned scholarships in addition to working and gratefully receiving the help your families could offer, Louisiana Tech ranks in the nation’s top 40 universities for graduating students with the least amount of debt. And another factor in that ranking is that Tech students graduate faster and at a rate that’s the best in the State of Louisiana. I really applaud you for that…despite living in modern campus apartments, access to great swimming pools and other recreational facilities and a beautiful campus and people who care for and about you at Tech…oh, and great classes and professors…these were good years for you…nonetheless, a lot of you are graduating in record time…taking the next step, thankfully not burdened by tremendous debt! In reality, you have won the lottery and bought yourself a top of the line Mercedes for a very reasonable price! Good deal!!! When you were sitting in Howard Auditorium at that first meeting of Orientation, there was excitement on your faces…and maybe a little anxiety. You were soaking up Tech! And you were getting plenty of information. At that Orientation and often afterwards, you heard about this phenomenon we call the Tech Family…and you learned over the months and years that followed that this isn’t just a term we use…it describes the culture at Louisiana Tech. It’s a culture that’s based on principles that have been woven into the fabric of this great university since its beginning in 1894. You’re an established member of the Tech Family now…and you are steeped in the culture of his amazing place. I believe that this culture is what has inspired us to achieve greatly, sometimes against all odds, and has placed Tech among the nation’s best universities. Our culture is principle-based, and these underlying principles that we call the Tenets of Tech are those that guide our mission, our strategic plans, every class, every activity, every decision. At the Freshman Convocation each fall, the entering students are asked to sign a pledge stating that they will endeavor to embrace these principles, these tenets, and make them a part of every aspect of their lives. As I’ve watched class after class of students, on that night before their first college classes begin, I see apprehension on faces…and determination to do exactly what they pledge to do…live these tenets. Throughout the convocation, you held a medallion engraved with those tenets…then you signed the pledge…and deposited that medallion in the Lady of the Mist Fountain with the promise that when you graduated, you’d see it again. And you will see it and hold it again today…and this time, it has engraved on it the date of your graduation. I’m so honored to be able to present those to you. Promise made by you…promise made by Tech…Promises kept! I’m a little doubtful that all students think about the tenets every single day, but as you reflect on your years at Tech, you will hopefully realize that you have indeed assimilated these principles into your lives…because it’s expected; it’s taught; it’s reflected in every area of Louisiana Tech. These are the principles that are the very heart of the Tech Family: EXCELLENCE, CONFIDENCE, COMMITMENT, KNOWLEDGE, INTEGRITY, RESPECT, LEADERSHIP, ENTHUIASM, HOPE, CARING, PRIDE, AND LOYALTY. You’ve heard about the Tenets of Tech over and over…you’ve seen pictorial representations in the Student Center and on the website and in our publications; these tenets are what we’re all about. And what you’ve learned about them, consciously or sub-consciously, will serve you well for the rest of your lives. While you were learning how to make a living, you were learning how to live…how to live a fulfilling life and how to become a contributing citizen. I googled “How to make a commencement speech,” and it was fascinating! The variety is endless. As a former English teacher, I was so tempted to utilize the teachings of literature’s and history’s great philosophers who tell us how to live a productive life. Instead, I want to borrow from some other authorities…a few of them sitting among you today, others not quite as well-known as Plato, but wise people just the same. I want to share with you a few thoughts about what some of these tenets can mean in your everyday, real life. You learned that EXCELLENCE is the basic expectation of everything and everybody at Tech. We just don’t settle for anything less. And you won’t either. You can’t fake excellence…like the philosopher said, you can put your socks in the oven, but that won’t make ‘em biscuits. Strive for the real thing…always. It’s the Tech hallmark. In your life, you’ll find that CONFIDENCE is so important…confidence is central to everything you do…it’s what gives you the courage to get you out of bed every morning…and you add to it every time you’re brave enough to try something new. Confidence is something you build on day after day…and it is an invisible protective shield when you have the occasional inevitable failure. Confidence doesn’t just happen…It is a result of careful planning, preparation, and courage. It has so many facets…I want you to remember that everything about you should exude confidence, though I freely acknowledge that sometimes and in some situations, you have to fake it for a while…people gravitate to those who appear to be confident…not arrogant…but quietly confident…those who have their act together. You’ve undoubtedly heard that you never get a second chance to make a first impression…and you don’t know when the chance to make that impression will come. Look the part of confidence…body language is so important…the way you speak and present yourself…your grooming and personal presence…all a part of the way you’re perceived by others. Just recently, an executive of Levi-Strauss was on a television show giving advice about denim…he said you should never or very seldom wash jeans…he had on some he proudly said he hadn’t washed in ten years. I’m not a denim expert, but my advice is don’t wear 10 year old unwashed jeans to work…you’ll make an impression, and I’m worried that you won’t have a second chance! You’re well educated…you know some stuff…present yourself that way and watch how well it works. Oh…and leave your selfie stick at home when you go to work! You’ve learned LEADERSHIP skills and had the opportunity to practice. You’ve observed the best kind of leadership in our university presidents. We’ve had only 14 presidents in 121 years…and only 3 in the past 53 years…that’s phenomenal stability and a big part of our success. You were students when Dr. Les Guice became our 14th president, and you’ve witnessed his dynamic, inclusive, principle-centered, humble, visionary leadership…and we’re all benefitting. Emulate the mentors and examples you’ve seen here, and our world will be the better for it. I’m so proud of the dedication to service and the genuine caring that’s demonstrated by our students year after year…in organizations all year long and as a student body when thousands of you gather for The Big Event each spring, assisting so many people who have needs we can help them with. Always remember that though it seems that to the world, you’re only one person…to one person, you may be the world. It’s a joy to be associated with people who CARE…it’s a Tech Tenet, and it’s the ability to demonstrate in countess ways dedication to something greater than yourself. You’ll care about your family, your friends, your church—so many other causes and people—and I’m asking you to always include Louisiana Tech among the things you care about. Be interested, be enthusiastic, follow Tech on social media…recommend Tech to prospective students, wear Tech gear and put your alumni sticker on your car…contribute financially when you can…let your support be known in every way….Care…always care. PRIDE is often associated with the Tech Family. Again, it’s not arrogance…but rather, it’s born of caring, hard work, commitment to excellence in all things, confidence, hope, accomplishment. The genesis of Tech pride is the tenets. We all know that pride can get way out of control sometimes…and that leads to arrogance. One of the pictures of arrogance I have in my mind is a macho cowboy…the kind we used to see in western movies…everything about him exuded arrogance and the idea was that he could back it up…from his Stetson to the spurs on his boots. I think we all occasionally put on our imaginary spurs…and use them to motivate ourselves…and sometimes others. The philosopher who wrote the Cowboy’s Guide to Life tells us to use our spurs wisely and sparingly, and he gives an interesting warning that applies to us all…don’t squat with your spurs on! Believe me, even if they are imaginary, they’ll bite you just the same! Be careful…have well-founded pride…but not arrogance. I hope you’ll have the LOYALTY that results from caring, from pride and commitment to excellence, from gratitude. Be loyal to those things, to those people who deserve and have earned your loyalty. Loyalty involves faithfulness. The term “Alma Mater” connotes reverence and loyalty for the nurturing qualities of a university. In our Tech Alma Mater, the final and most emphatic phrase is, “I will ever loyal be, to thee, my Alma Mater.” You’ll have the opportunity to say that at the end of this ceremony…think about it…Be loyal to those things that you value most, and let Louisiana Tech be among them. Finally, the tenet of HOPE represents the firm and unwavering belief in future possibilities, and you have every reason to be hopeful. Your possibilities are limitless…you have the foundation of a very fine education, and you’ve realized that learning is a lifelong experience. The poet Emily Dickinson likens hope to a bird….a thing with feathers…that appears so fragile, so easily blown and buffeted about, but is so strong and resilient. Fear of failure and lack of firm values and confidence are the enemies of hope…they can suck the life right out of it. You are going to fail at times…and have bad things happen…everybody does. Some of my lesser known but wise philosophers have said, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Others have said that when you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is to quit digging. All excellent advice…Hope is based on the things you know and believe without doubt, the unshakable things…your values. Identify your values…those things that are closest to your heart…that you absolutely believe. Hang on to your values, the principles of your life, and they will see you through the toughest times… hope based on uncompromising values will always prevail, no matter how deep the hole or how sour the lemons. Today, you become a part of Tech’s illustrious history…your name will be permanently engraved on a brick in the Alumni Walkway that’s such a cherished part of our campus. I am blessed and privileged to have been educated at Tech and to join 37 of my family also represented on that walkway. What a joy it’s been to serve this great university for 25 years, and today, I’m humbled by the honor of sharing this significant occasion with you. I’m so proud of each of you, of what you’ve accomplished. You’re about to embark on your new journey, and I, too, am beginning a new phase of my life. The difference is that most of you will be going to work…and I will be going to the golf course! I’m grateful beyond words for this extraordinary university and the amazing people who have added such joy and substance to my life. Always remember… Tech is not its buildings, as beautiful as they are…Tech is its people…it’s family, our family—Tech is each one of us. Now…go forth and prosper, and may the Force of Tech be with you!