Wiley Scott, the group senior vice president for Young Life, addressing the students as the keynote speaker at the 132nd Convocation, said “My theme for you for this year is fight the good fight, finish the race, and keep the faith.”
Scott told the students that it is important to finish what you start. “You guys are the best of the best. Don’t mess up this opportunity. No one is in this room by coincidence. You guys have to understand that God has a plan for you. I’m a testament to that.”
He then told the audience of his life’s experiences, growing up in the projects of a town in Florida with an absentee father and a drug-addicted mother. “There is no way I should be standing here except for the fact that the Lord had a plan for me and I think that’s true for the folks in this room. Basketball was my way out. My basketball coach was my mentor.”
His coach told him he should go to college rather than do unskilled work at the local orange juice plant because he has what it takes to succeed. “That day shaped the rest of my life. When I think of that day I think of Williamson.” He went on to tell the story of meeting with a Williamson alumnus who told him that Williamson shaped his life. He spent 30 years in a career that allowed him to provide for his family and build a future.
“I really encourage you guys to not mess up this opportunity. Don’t take this for granted because it will not only change you, but will change the future of your kids and their kids.”
He then said there are three things he thinks the Lord wants him to share with the students; three things that transformed his life. They are love, sacrifice and obedience, and prayer.
“The Bible says ‘We love because He first helped us.’” He then said there was a time when he was in college that he hated himself. He attended a speech and a man stood up and talked about how the Lord loved me so much he was willing to die for me. That changed everything for me. You are loved, you have what it takes, and God has a plan for you.”
He said, “If you are looking for an easy way out, you should probably leave this place. It’s going to require some work and sacrifice.
“The third thing is prayer. I don’t think you can be successful or accomplish anything if you don’t believe in something bigger than yourself.”
Scott pointed out a special Williamson tradition, graduates ringing the bell after receiving their diploma. Addressing the seniors, he said “I encourage you guys to ring the bell. Finish what you start and ring that bell. I promise you, you cannot do this by yourself. You have a God that loves you and who is with you.”
At the conclusion of his speech, President Michael Rounds presented him with a memorial wooden box with a picture of Rowan Hall on the lid.
In her opening remarks, Dr. Michelle Williams, vice president of academic affairs and CAO, said “I welcome all of the Williamson community to the start of a new academic year and a very special welcome to our students. Students, you have a tremendous opportunity. You need to make every day count. Make each day successful and significant. Make sure you enjoy the process. Let us all remember what a blessing Williamson is in each and every one of our lives.”
Williams presented the honor of faculty emeritus to Louise “Cissie” Reynolds, who taught communications at Williamson from 1988 to 2018. The faculty emeritus award exists to honor faculty who have retired from Williamson, but have left an indelible mark on the community during their years of service.
Williams said, “We are proud to celebrate Cissie Reynolds who has been a pillar in the community and who cares not just about the students, but also about the faculty and staff. Her care ran much deeper than the nine to five work day. She was an exceptional speech teacher who was very dedicated to her craft. Williamson is eternally grateful to her and her years of service to the college. This honor is well deserved.”
In his opening remarks, President Michael Rounds said, “Mary Nell and I are starting our tenth year here and are just as excited and enthusiastic as we were ten years ago. It is just an amazing place to serve. We are excited about the school’s 132nd year.” He pointed out that the Class of 2W5, with 124 members, is the largest freshman class in Williamson history.
Chaplain Mark Specht 7W7 gave the invocation and benediction, Sean Howat, assistant chaplain, gave the responsorial psalm and pledge of allegiance, Jason Minch, senior class president, did the scripture reading, and the Artisans led the audience in the singing of the alma mater.
For those who were unable to attend the 132nd Convocation, watch the archived video at https://youtu.be/BJ74VgIKagU.