WINGATE — Gov. Pat McCrory on Saturday encouraged graduates at Wingate University’s 118th commencement to celebrate the accomplishment of earning a degree, but challenged them to perform and fulfill their potential.
As keynote speaker, he addressed an audience of more than 5,500 in the Academic Quadrangle. His talk focused on adapting to change and included references to singer Bob Dylan and boxer/businessman George Foreman.
McCrory mentioned his bitterness over losing the 2008 N.C. governor’s race and the words of encouragement that came from his friend Foreman. who’d lost the World Heavyweight Title in 1974 and regained it 20 years later at age 45.
Foreman gave McCrory a pair of boxing gloves with the words: “With this hand I missed a lot, but I kept swinging.”
“Never give up,” McCrory said as he held up the gloves. “Keep swinging during the up times and the down times and understand that you’re going to go through some changes in your life.”
Wingate graduated its largest class ever Saturday with 622 graduates, awarding bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees.
Seven students earned a perfect 4.0 GPA
This year, the university awarded two new degrees: bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) and master of arts in sport management (MASM). Founded in 1896, Wingate University serves 3,000 students on three campuses in Wingate, Charlotte and Hendersonville.
The class of 1964 celebrated its 50th anniversary by leading the class of 2014 in the procession. Many members of the 2014 class filed into the Quadrangle with caps bearing messages on top, including “be a champion,” “thanks mom and dad,” and “the journey doesn’t start at the beginning, it starts at the end.”
Among those in the audience was Anita Barr of Waxhaw who’d come to see her daughter, Brandi Morgan Baldwin, graduate summa cum laude with a bachelor of science degree.
“I’m very proud,” said Barr. “It’s a perfect day for a graduation.”
McCrory told graduates that after receiving their degrees they shouldn’t stop assessing their talents.
“You must understand what your weaknesses are,” he said. “And how to fill in the gaps,”
Even with a college degree, “do not get too comfortable with success,” said McCrory. “Accept the praise and recognition. But embrace change and continue to use it to your advantage.”
He recalled that as Charlotte mayor he adapted quickly after the 2008 financial crisis, helping transform the Queen City into an energy center with 260 energy-related companies creating 30,000 jobs.
Citing the Bob Dylan song “The Times They Are A-changing,” McCrory told graduates they have to be resilient and “learn to bounce back occasionally no matter how much you’ve accomplished.”
When he took office as governor last year, McCrory said North Carolina had the fifth highest unemployment rate in the nation. Two days ago, he learned the state was no longer in the top 30 of states with the highest unemployment rate and that North Carolina was now below the national average.
“We’re fighting hard because of graduates like you,” McCrory said. “We’re recruiting jobs and industry.”
In conclusion, he told the graduates they were the future of the state and “we want you all to make North Carolina your home.”