More Than 4,000 Become OU Alumni

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Cheers and applause filled the Convocation Center on Saturday as thousands of students became alumni during the annual commencement ceremony at Ohio University.

More than 4,000 students received their degrees during the commencement ceremonies on Friday and Saturday.

“I’m going to Disney World!”

No, really. Maggie Lawlor of Waterford is trading in the Southeastern Ohio and OU atmosphere for that of Disney World as the Scripps College of Communication graduate secured at job at the “happiest place on Earth.” She will be employed in merchandising and is hoping to move into product development and branding.

“I took a Disney class at OU that was killer awesome,” said Lawlor. “I would have never though to work at Disney until that.”

Prior to entering the Convocation Center for the final time as students, other members of the Class of 2014 reflected on their time at Ohio University as well and the plans they have as they graduate.

“OU was absolutely one of the best experiences of my life,” said Amanda Hefflinger of Elmore a Scripps College of Communication graduate. “I’m excited to be a bobcat for the rest of my life.”

“I had the best three years of my life,” said College of Business graduate Jenna Kinsey who transferred to Ohio University. “It breaks my heart to leave.”

“It feels like I just got here,” said graduate of the College of Fine Arts Maddie Cupp. While University College graduate Mary K. Gallagher said, “I’m super glad I came to OU.”

A stalwart supporter of the university and 1966 alumnus, Charles R. Stuckey, Jr. addressed the graduates as part of the undergraduate commencement. Chairman emeritus of computer security giant RSA Security, Stuckey has led a 40-year career in information technology beginning as a systems engineer with IBM. He later held positions in sales and general management with IBM and Control Data Corporation, and most recently RSA Security, where he served as its president and chief executive officer for 14 years and chairman of the board until 2006. Under his leadership, RSA grew from 18 employees in 1987 to 1,500 employees in 2006 and was ranked as one of the top 100 security software companies in the world.

“When I was in your seat, and that was a long time ago, one of the furthest things from my mind would be coming back and addressing a graduating class,” said Stuckey. “So don’t get me wrong I’m honored to be invited to be your commencement speaker here today but I’m sure, like a number of you in this room I was just glad to be graduating and I just couldn’t wait for the next phase of my life.”

Stuckey asked that all of the graduates stand up and give a round of applause to those who have supported and encouraged them along the way.

“I think the only people in this audience that may be happier than you to see this day arrive are probably your parents,” said Stuckey to a round of laughter from the crowd.

When looking for exactly what to say to the Class of 2014, Stuckey said he “googled” it and learned a couple of things. “First, I learned that they (commencement addresses) need to be short, and second I learned what I am supposed to communicate to you today is to provide you with the keys to lifelong happiness and success. I can’t think of any pressure coming out of that. After all my only advantage is I have a lot of years on you therefore I’ve had many more opportunities to make mistakes.”

Stuckey used his own experiences to give the graduates five things to takeaway from his address.

First, “Don’t be afraid to get outside your comfort zone whether it’s making speeches like this speech today or fighting fear in making those high risk decisions you’ll be making in like. Make it a point to try to get outside your comfort zone.”

Second, said Stuckey, “Never lose sight of where you came from or compromise on your value system.”

The third takeaway was to “Listen to your inner voice or gut in making those important decisions in life. Let passion not dollars be your motivator.”

“Surround yourself with the brightest, smartest people you can find and then and then try to keep out of their way,” said was the fourth thing to takeaway. “By helping the team members to succeed you are also contributing to your own success.”

Finally, added Stuckey, “It’s not the failures in life but how we respond to them that determine how much success we’ll ultimately achieve.”