He asked graduates to identify people based solely on their professional accomplishments, such as Heisman trophy, Nobel Prize and Miss America contest winners.
Then he requested graduates to think of those who’d made a direct impact on their own educations and lives. Finally, he asked them to compare their answers from both categories to identify which contained the greater number of names.
“The lesson is obvious,” Gregory said. “Life is not simply about personal achievement. Life is about the good you do, the time you give, the help you provide. Life is about the love you share. I really believe this is the essence of life.”
What the achievement of earning a college degree does, he continued, is place its recipients in a privileged class because only one in about four adults holds such a distinction.
“Because you have this privilege, you also have a responsibility — a responsibility to give, to share, to help, to mentor, and to love others deeply,” Gregory said.
It’s also important for everyone — regardless of his or her level of personal accomplishment — to strive for a life filled with gratitude, he concluded.
“Never forget to show gratitude. If you ever see a turtle on a fencepost, you know it had to have some help to get there — well, so did you, and so did I. I believe it is the height of arrogance to forget those who helped you along your way,” Gregory said.
In his current post since May 1998, he is responsible for overseeing capital outlay and maintenance projects at the TBR’s 46 universities and community colleges.
Formerly the director of government affairs for Blue Cross Blue Shield, Gregory also held leadership positions in state government for 15 years as Chief of Staff for Gov. Ned McWherter and as Chief of Staff for Lt. Gov. John Wilder.
During commencement, degrees were awarded to 426 students who represent 59 counties throughout Tennessee, seven other states and four other countries. Those who earned undergraduate degrees represent 32 fields of study, and those who earned graduate degrees represent 16 fields. The College of Engineering awarded doctorates to three candidates.
Among those being awarded graduate degrees was Dorothy Creekmore of Spencer — only the second blind student in more than 10 years to earn a master’s level degree from the university — and her seeing eye or leader dog, Sadie.
Also during the ceremony, TTU President Bob Bell recognized the university’s two recipients of the Harold Love Outstanding Community Service Award.
They are Theresa Ennis, a secondary English major from Jackson County who was among the day’s undergraduates, and R. Stuart (Doc) Wells, a decision sciences and management professor who volunteers with the Putnam County Sheriff’s Reserve Unit.
Named in honor of the late Rep. Harold Love, the award recognizes individuals who are both committed to community service and involved in Tennessee’s higher education institutions.
TTU has granted a total of more than 60,000 degrees in its history.