Graduating from college is a major adjustment for most, but the events of this past September are forcing the newest group of Tennessee Tech University alumni to carefully consider more dramatic changes as well.
The 549 graduates at TTU's Fall commencement ceremony heard about the need for making adjustments in their lives from a man speaking with experience: Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor Charles Manning.
Manning became chancellor of the TBR, the sixth largest system of higher education in the nation, in 2000. TTU is one of six universities, 13 community colleges and 26 technology centers that make up the TBR system. Prior to moving to Tennessee, Manning served as Chief Executive Officer of the University System of West Virginia.
"September 11 and the events of that day have changed us forever and caused adjustments in our lives: how we relate to one another, how we set priorities, and how we solve problems," Manning told the graduates.
He described how changes in today's business culture and our personal lives have caused people to think about the directions and decisions of their lives.
"Business is no longer an idea," Manning said. "It is not a set of employees, not a building, not a sign, but it IS customers. This is not a new concept, but an old one re-learned, and one that we must adjust to. It is a valuable lesson for all of us as we work. You have been our customers, and it is you — all of our students — who are our reason for being."
Manning also described how the business strategy of publicizing corporate leaders like Lee Iacocca as famous icons has proven to be cosmetic. The greatest growth occurred not in those businesses that were personality-driven, but in those that were truly customer-focused.
"The adjustment I ask you to think about is that real contribution does not require fame," he said. He also told the group how the events of Sept. 11 should cause them to consider what is truly important in their lives.
"What I am asking of you today is to provide leadership in your own life. Be an active participant leading your life, and remember it is not the money, it is the customer who you serve. It is not the glory of leadership, it is again who you serve."
In closing Manning recognized everyone in the audience as the support base on which the graduates' success is built. Also honored during the ceremony was Dr. Joseph Ojo, who received the Caplenor Faculty Research Award for his work in power electronics research.
During commencement, 101 students received master's degrees, 11 earned the Specialist in Education degree, and two received Doctor of Philosophy degrees. Prior to commencement, the university ROTC Battalion held its Fall commissioning ceremonies.
Students graduating this term hail from 65 Tennessee counties, 16 other states, and 8 foreign countries. Degrees awarded represent 36 undergraduate and 16 graduate-level fields of study.