Wallace Prescott, a distinguished Tennessee Tech alum who also served as interim TTU president from 1985 to 1987, was introduced by newly-appointed President Bob Bell, who presided over his first graduation ceremony.
Prescott told the graduating students that three factors significantly influence notable achievement: opportunity, aptitude and desire.
"There is a natural human tendency to equate opportunity with sheer luck, a mere favorable juncture of circumstances," he said. That, basically, what it takes to succeed is to be in the right place at the right time.
However, Prescott explained, more than chance is involved in the ability to recognize potential in the more obscure situations.
"The broader the base of one's knowledge and experience, and the greater the willingness to move into the unknown, the unexplored, the more perceptive and successful that person will be in recognizing, seizing and shaping opportunity," he said.
As for aptitude, Prescott continued, not just the wealth of a formal education or the natural disposition to mental quickness make a person smarter than the rest.
"I refer, rather, to the capacity of a human mind, not only to accumulate, but also to assimilate, interpolate and contemplate," he explained.
"I refer to the kind of mind that allows one to be comfortable in areas of the unknown and provides one with the ability and willingness to tackle tough problems, to comprehend complex ideas and to draw logical conclusions."
But the one factor that people have the most control over is desire -- a genuine desire that is often directed toward the good of others, Prescott said.
"Vernon Alden said, while serving as president of Ohio University, 'Some people level off the day after graduation, and one never hears of them again. Yet others, by hard work, concentrated study and sacrifice achieve for themselves the ultimate happiness of self fulfillment. Their hearts and minds are alive with the thrill of accomplishment. Their souls soar with the feeling that they are being creative and that life has meaning,'" said Prescott.
"You have the power to make that wish to come true if you will determine to shape your own opportunities, to enlarge your aptitude, to strengthen your desire," he said in closing. "And to thereby experience the deep and lasting satisfaction that comes from true achievement."
Roughly 350 students graduated on Saturday from TTU, bringing the total number of graduates since the university's founding in 1915 to more than 45,000.At yesterday's ceremony, students from 51 Tennessee counties, 12 states and six foreign countries were represented. Undergraduates representing 31 fields of study and graduate students representing 15 fields of student were part of Saturday's commencement. Birth dates for students ranged from 1943 to 1978.