Section Navigation

Appalachian Graduates Urged to Embrace Change, Make a Difference

By Jane Nicholson

BOONE–Commencement speaker J. Bradley Wilson urged Appalachian State University College of Arts and Sciences graduates to make a difference in their lives even in the face of opposition.

Some 1,500 undergraduate and graduate students received Appalachian degrees during ceremonies held May 12 and 13. Each of the university’s six colleges and schools hold individual commencement ceremonies.

Speaking Sunday, May 13, Wilson urged graduates to take their status as one of the “privileged few” and answer the call to become responsible citizens.

“Today you join the 24 percent of North Carolinians who have earned a college degree,” Wilson said. “With this special status comes a responsibility. Whether the words ‘privileged few’ become an arrogant description of status that you selfishly promote or a call to responsible citizenship is now up to you.”

Wilson is senior vice president, general counsel, and secretary of Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina, and was general counsel to Gov. James B. Hunt for four years. Wilson, a 1975 Appalachian graduate, also is a member of the University of North Carolina Board of Governors.

Wilson cautioned the graduates not to become discouraged by people who won’t embrace or accept change.

He spoke of several Americans who remained unfazed by the opposition of others, including Bobby Kennedy, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Jonathon Daniels, a 1960s Virginia Military Institute graduate who was killed following his involvement in a civil rights march in Alabama in the mid 1960s.

“There will always be those who will want the world to stay the way it is,” Wilson said. “So if you try to change it you will frequently meet resistance, opposition and defeat. Your challenge will be to not let these forces be your excuse to quit.”

Wilson said North Carolina taxpayers had contributed over $8,000 a year for the last four years for each graduate to attend college. Only Nevada contributes more per student in their university system than North Carolina, he said.

Dr. Ronald M. Zigli, director of the MBA program at The Citadel, spoke to graduates of the Cratis D. Williams Graduate School. Zigli is a former business professor and assistant dean at Appalachian. He and his wife have endowed the Zigli Family Research Award, which recognizes outstanding research by Appalachian graduate students.

Zigli told the graduates that Appalachian had given them the greatest gift by preparing their minds for the future, nurturing their ability to think creatively and encouraging them to challenge assumptions, all of which would prepare them for whatever the future holds.

“I urge you not to be frustrated by change and the seemingly endless stream of new knowledge,” he said. “Develop an insatiable thirst for knowledge.”

Other speakers were author Bob Inman, Mariam Cannon Hayes School of Music; Appalachian graduate Darlene Romine, national accounts director for Biogen, a biotechnology company, College of Fine and Applied Arts; and Alfonso T. Yuchengco, chairman of the Yuchengco Group of Companies and the Philippines’ former ambassador to China and Japan, Walker College of Business.

Graduates of the Reich College of Education viewed a video presentation of college highlights.