Change is necessary for progress, TTU commencement speaker tells graduates

Not only adapting but also being an agent of change is necessary for true progress.

That’s what Stephen L. Rains, president and CEO of Progressive Savings Bank and the Rains Agency, told more than 700 graduates and their friends and families at Tennessee Tech University’s fall commencement ceremony at Hooper Eblen Center on Saturday.

“The willingness to embrace change is a good thing, and it’s necessary because it represents the first step toward a future that will no doubt involve many chapters of progress,” he said.

Rains cited technological changes in the way people communicate and transact business to serve as examples of progress.

“The reason why our nation is so technologically advanced and why our nation continues to set the pace globally in business and cultural development is because as a society, as graduates of a great university, we are the agents of progress because we embrace change and reject the status quo,” he said.

He said his father, Lyndon Rains, who along with several other visionary business leaders created Progressive Savings Bank in 1980, instilled in him the value of progress.

“He was so aware of the power of change and what it meant to progress that he had the foresight to make ‘progressive’ the centerpiece — in name and spirit — for his business,” Rains said of his father.

“He was never a big fan of Bob Dylan — and I forgive him for that — but he embodied the spirit of what is in my mind, one of Dylan’s greatest lyrics: He who is not busy being born is busy dying.”

Rains went on to congratulate TTU’s newest graduates on their courage and persistence.

“The fact of the matter is this — you will still need courage and persistence as you leave this university today,” he said. “Believe it or not, today marks more of a beginning for you rather than an end to something.”

Rains himself graduated magna cum laude in English from TTU in 1985.

“It’s possible that you feel like you have just scaled the highest mountain — the mountain of higher education, with a degree as the peak on that mountain,” he said.

Although earning a college degree is an impressive accomplishment, Rains told graduates, their lives would continue to present more and possibly even greater accomplishments.

“What you have accomplished here today is momentous indeed, but trust me when I say that this mountain you have just scaled is by no means the highest mountain you will face in your lifetime,” he said.

“From today’s vantage point, I hope you now see that there are indeed other mountains to scale on your horizon.

“And if you have the foresight to see a range of mountains in the distance, let me strongly encourage you not to be intimidated. For if you have scaled one mountain, you can scale another and another,” he said.

About 708 students graduated from TTU this fall. They hail from 45 states including Tennessee, 67 Tennessee counties and 63 foreign countries. They represent 39 undergraduate fields of study and 18 graduate fields.

Eight doctorate degrees — the highest degree bestowed by the university — were awarded, six in engineering and one each in exceptional learning and environmental sciences. Earning doctorate degrees in engineering were Corey Lamont Cantrell, Andrew Jason Hill, Luke Justin Hyde, Charles Jonathan Tucker, Qiang Zhang and Chenming Zhou. Qusayy Maceo Godbolt earned a doctorate degree in exceptional learning, and Samrat Saha earned a doctorate degree in environmental sciences.

Following fall commencement, TTU has granted more than 61,000 degrees.