Published: Sat May 9, 2009
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. (May 9, 2009) – “It matters who leads” was the theme of the messaged presented by Tennessee State Sen. Dolores Gresham at Tennessee Tech University’s record-breaking spring commencement at the Hooper Eblen Center on Saturday.
With nearly 1,275 graduates earning degrees, it was the largest commencement ceremony yet in TTU’s history.
Gresham, who serves as chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee and is retired from the U.S. Marine Corps, told graduates and their families and friends who attended the ceremony that she’s been blessed in her various roles to have known people in each who have been positive examples of leadership.
The greatest lesson Gresham learned from those people, she said, is that collections of things are managed; groups of people are led.
“And who is leading them is as important as how they are led,” she continued, citing examples that ranged from the Revolutionary period in American history to the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.
The characteristic that most singly separates true leaders from the people who simply try to manage others, Gresham said, is vision.
“Great leaders develop a vision about how the world should look, and they use that vision to guide their moral compass,” she said. “They follow their conscience and ignore the metrics defined by others to measure success.”
Another lesson Gresham said she’s learned from the true leaders she’s encountered is that there are no sure paths to success; there is one sure path to failure, and that is trying to please everyone.
She concluded by telling TTU’s newest graduates to “seize the mantle of leadership” in their chosen endeavors.
“It matters who leads — and now it’s your turn,” she said.
As a senator for the 26th District, Gresham represents Chester, Crockett, Fayette, Hardeman, Hardin, Haywood, McNairy and Wayne counties in West Tennessee.
Students graduating from TTU this spring hail from 26 states including Tennessee, 76 Tennessee counties and 18 foreign countries. They represent 43 undergraduate fields of study and 23 graduate fields. Birth dates of graduates ranged from 1945 to 1988.
Following spring commencement, TTU has granted more than 65,000 degrees.