Distinguished General Speaks at Tennessee Tech's Fall Commencement

As the featured speaker at Tennessee Technological University's fall commencement ceremony Saturday, retired Major General Richard E. Davis gave the university's December graduates a gift of guidance: "four compass points to help you navigate life's road into the future."

As the last graduating class of 1995 and their loved ones gathered in Hooper Eblen Center on this December morning to recognize the culmination of years of study, Davis described the four guideposts he uses to steer his way through life: teamwork, education, integrity and perseverance.

Davis, a 1962 Tennessee Tech graduate, also holds a master's degree in public administration from the University of Tennessee and is a graduate of the U.S. Army War College. His 32 years of active service in the Army encompass 13 years overseas, including duties in Vietnam and Germany, and five Army divisions.

Among his awards, Davis has earned the Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit and Bronze Star. His many administrative positions have included chief of staff of the 8th Infantry Division and also of the Combined Arms Center, Department of the Army budget analyst, and ROTC instructor at Louisiana State University.

On teamwork, Davis said, "Understand your obligation to contribute your individual talents and energies to new teams. In this way, your individual goals will also be achieved."

Davis advised the new graduates to ensure that their minds would be "a workshop, not a storehouse" by "keeping your mind open to new ideas and to change and continuing to read and to keep abreast of current affairs."

On the subject of integrity, Davis said, "If you do the right thing all the time and demand it from those with whom you associate, you're going to like what you see when you look into the mirror in the morning."

Finally, on perseverance, Davis offered the Army's slogan, "Be all you can be." He said, "I believe that is pretty good advice for anyone, in or out of uniform."

Davis' wife, Brenda, is a 1963 graduate of Tennessee Tech. The couple now lives in Alcoa.

About 550 degrees were conferred at the ceremony, bringing the number of Tennessee Tech alumni to more than 41,000. Four students received doctoral degrees: Mounir Ben Ghalia, electrical engineering; Tarek Lahdhiri, electrical engineering; Jorge Destephen Soler, chemical engineering; and Muhammad Sannah, mechanical engineering.

The university recognized two students who completed their bachelor's degree with a perfect 4.0 quality point average: Daniel J. Courter of Columbia, who earned a bachelor of science in engineering, and Kristena D. Stewart of Hendersonville, who earned a bachelor of science in business engineering.

Graduating students hailed from 71 Tennessee counties, 18 other states and 11 foreign countries. Undergraduate degrees represented 36 fields of study, and graduate degrees represented 17.