In a very inspirational talk, Kevin Reilly, a former special teams captain for the Philadelphia Eagles, officially opened the 2017-18 school year during the 127th Convocation.

Reilly’s NFL career was cut short when he was diagnosed with a rare desmoid tumor, resulting in the amputation of his left arm and shoulder and four ribs. Though depressed about his situation at first, when he was told he would never be able to tie his shoes or a tie, run, or play sports, his reaction was, “We’ll see about that.”

Now 38 years since his operation, he says he still can’t play the guitar, but has run in five and a half marathons and broke 90 in golf. He stressed, “The human spirit is stronger than anything that can happen to it.” As he spoke these words, he untied his tie and tied it, with one hand.

Addressing the students, he said “You guys have been given a tremendous opportunity to be at this school. Don’t underestimate the learning you are getting here. Take advantage of it and pay it back.”

Citing the school’s mission statement of preparing qualified young men to be respected leaders, he said “When it comes to leadership, people don’t care about how much you know until they know how much you care. To be a good leader, you need to show you care about them as people.”

In closing, he said, “Take care of your fellow man. What guides my life is faith, family, friends, and fortitude.”

At the conclusion of his remarks, President Michael Rounds presented him with a Williamson keepsake box with a rendering of Rowan Hall on the lid.

In his remarks, Rounds said “Williamson is the best trade school in the country. Your education is anchored in values. Our core values —  faith, integrity, diligence, excellence, and service — are what set Williamson men apart. We are training you to be servant leaders, who lead from the front.”

Samuel Wrightson, dean of education, in his welcoming remarks told the students what their year would be like. “Seniors, it’s difficult to inspire others to do their best and that is their challenge. Juniors, you won’t be scrutinized as much and you know how to avoid hours. You will also get some leadership opportunities. Freshmen, don’t hesitate to ask for help. We are all here to help you.”

Convocation also included an invocation and benediction from Rev. Mark Specht 7W7; responsorial psalm from Harry Chapin 1W8; and a scripture reading by Raymond Drulik, president of the Class of 1W8.

Guests, who included trustees, alumni, friends, faculty, and staff, started the morning with breakfast in the Sabia Garden and then observed the student lineup and raising of the flag in front of Rowan Hall before joining the students in the Clara Schrenk Memorial Chapel for the Convocation.