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TTU News


Students come to Tennessee Tech University from the top of their class. They go on to excel in their university studies. Failure is not something most of them are accustomed to.

At today’s commencement ceremony, however, state Comptroller Justin Wilson encouraged them to be daring and unafraid of “screwing up.”

“I want to tell you to be especially careful when you drive and when you pack your parachute, but don’t be too careful when you live your life,” Wilson said at the 10 a.m. ceremony. “You are educated young men and women and you have the diplomas to prove it, and you know so very much, and yet here I am, an old man standing before you and not only am I telling you that you don’t know enough, but I am also telling you that you won’t know enough until you screw things up, until you fail.”

TTU’s 793 graduates, he said, will find the paths that lead to success by how they respond to their mistakes. A life without failure is a life led too cautiously, he told them.

“Tomorrow is a new day, and if you’re lucky, tomorrow you will botch things up in ways you can’t even imagine,” said the longtime partner at the Nashville law firm of Waller Lansden Dortch and Davis. “I am convinced that you never truly know success unless you botch things up, an d more important, unless you plan for the screwing up that is going to happen.”

Wilson was elected comptroller in 2009. Previously, he served as deputy governor to Gov. Don Sundquist from 1996-2003. He was also the commissioner and chief policy adviser of the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the state’s 53rd park was named for him in 2002.

TTU’s 793 graduates represented 72 counties, 27 states and 13 other countries. They earned degrees in 39 undergraduate fields of study and 18 graduate fields. Their birth dates ranged from 1955-1995.

After the ceremony, the university has more than 76,000 alumni worldwide.