Despite a rainy Saturday afternoon, there was no shadow cast over the accomplishments of the graduates of the West Virginia University John Chambers College of Business and Economics.
“The sun doesn’t always shine on West Virginia, but our people do and today our graduates do,” university President E. Gordon Gee said as he addressed the crowd of graduates, friends and family gathered at the WVU Coliseum.
Chambers College of Business and Economics Milan Puskar Dean Joshua Hall told the group of graduates that the jobs of tomorrow will favor those who can innovate and adapt.
“You, as Chambers College graduates, are well-prepared to do just that,” Hall said, reminding the graduates they have already successfully navigated their way through their college education with flexibility and tenacity due to the pandemic.
Morgantown native Maxmillion Fijewski was among the graduates at Saturday’s ceremony. He said, “It feels wonderful. I am so excited,” as he walked in to receive a bachelor’s degree in global supply chain management.
“Keep your head up and keep your eyes on the prize,” he said to any future graduates.
As for his plans now that he is graduated, he said, “Honestly, I am going to stay in Morgantown, try to find a job around here.”
Until then, the new graduate said he plans to continue working at Apple Annie’s in Cheat Lake until he is able to find a job in his field.
Graduate Clay Collins from Blue Ridge, Ga., said he enjoyed his time at WVU and that it felt good to be receiving a Ph.D. in economics from WVU following his undergraduate work at Berry College in Georgia.
Collins, who also did some teaching as a doctoral student, said it was a neat experience for him “because I get to graduate here, and I also taught a lot of the kids who are graduating so it’s really nice to have both.”
In addition to the hundreds of traditional diploma recipients, two honorary Doctor of Business degrees were also awarded by Gee in recognition of the recipients’ distinguished careers.
The honor was given to Parkersburg native Richard M. Adams, executive chairman of the Board of United Bankshares Inc. and United Bank, and Clarksburg native Diana Lewis Jackson, CEO of Action Facilities Management (AFM), which specializes in integrated facilities solutions for U.S. federal agencies.
In his address, Adams offered the graduates what he believed to be two fundamentals of success in business and in life – be goal-oriented and have core values.
“Goal-setting has been a key to success at United,” Adams said. When he first began at United, he said they set a goal to be in the nation’s top 50 companies at a time when they were not even in the top 500. Because they continued to work towards that goal, today United is 38th in the nation.
“If you want to get some place in life or in business you’ve got to set goals and execute,” he said.
The second fundamental, core values, Adams said is equally important.
“Having the right core values is essential to being a winner, whether in the business world or your personal life.”
United’s core values include integrity, teamwork, hard work and caring and Adams said part of the company’s success is due to their 3,000 employees living those values every day.
Lewis, who said she was a first-generation college graduate, said that earning a degree was the key to changing the trajectory of her family and her life.
“Now is the time to unleash your potential,” she said in her address. “Every single one of you have your own stories about how you got to this moment, but you all have one thing in common – you’re here because you made a choice to take control of your destiny. You’re here because instead of sitting back and letting life happen, you deliberately put in the work required to become a business professional.”
Lewis told the grads their newly earned degrees would open doors for them as it did for her but warned that sometimes the wrong door may open.
“But out of that comes challenges and out of those challenges come opportunities,” she said, “and those opportunities will do nothing but make you grow.”
She also told the grads to remember the importance of family and surrounding yourself at work with people you trust and care about because they will be the ones to help you succeed.
“Believe me when I say that no one succeeds on their own. You will need friends, mentors and colleagues who will support you and are willing to tell you the truth … and every now and then they will give you a sanity check,” she said.
“Tomorrow is your first day in uncharted territory, but as a WVU alum you are prepared for that.”
To the 2023 graduates of the Chambers College, Dean Hall said, “We often say that our Chambers College students are the future of work – and that’s never been more true than it is today.
“A bright future or purpose lies ahead, and that future needs you,” he said. “It needs your perseverance, your energy, your adaptability. It needs your hope, your aspirations to change the world for the better. It needs you to be the next generation of creators, entrepreneurs and business leaders who will confront the problems of today and solve the problems of tomorrow. It needs you to value and champion diversity so that you can break through barriers, and you can inspire others to break through them too … never stop dreaming big.”