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Durham Shares Old Fashioned Ideas with Appalachian’s December Graduates

BOONE–There are no shortcuts to success, but Harvey Durham offered nuggets of wisdom that have served him well during his career to Appalachian State University graduates during winter commencement Dec. 15 in the Holmes Center on campus.

Durham, whose career in higher education has spanned almost 40 years, is provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs at Appalachian. He will retire in June 2003.

“These are just some old fashioned ideas about how best one might make it in the world,” he said. “What I’ll say has worked well for me over the years, and perhaps you’ll hear something that will appeal to your style of working and living,” he told some 870 bachelor’s and master’s degree candidates. Graduates who completed their degree requirements in August also participated in the ceremony.

Durham began his career at Appalachian in 1966 as an assistant professor in the Department of Mathematics. He rose quickly through the ranks and was named departmental chair in 1967, associate dean of the faculty in 1971, associate vice chancellor for academic affairs in 1974, acting vice chancellor for academic affairs in 1979, vice chancellor for academic affairs in 1980 and provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs in 1981.

“In this stressful world we live in, I’ve best been able to maintain my sanity with a good sense of humor,” he said. “Take what you and others do seriously, but not yourself. Always enjoy humor but never at others’ expense.”

Be punctual, be prepared and be willing to have fun, he added.

“Maintain your credibility. If you lose that, you may find it almost impossible to regain it,” Durham advised. “Work hard and work purposefully, but don’t let your work consume you. Take breaks –long ones and short ones. Go to a movie, read a good book, play a sport, exercise, take a nap, take long weekends to get away from it all. Any of these activities will mentally refresh you. Take your work professionally but not personally. Remember that your loved ones and your health always come before your job. You’ll need to help others remember that, too.”

A successful person is also willing to share success with others. “Give credit where credit is due,” Durham said. “Very little is more disheartening than to have worked hard to make something happen and then get no credit or practically no credit for your work. Give others the credit and you’ll find yourself repaid by them many times over.”

But a successful person is more than just someone who has integrity, a good work ethic, and sense of humor and is a team player.

“Up to now you’ve taken much from the storehouse: education, time and love – a good education from your grade school, your high school and Appalachian; time from interested teachers, scout leaders, coaches and many others along the way; much love from those who care about you,” Durham said.

“It’s time for you to begin returning some of what you’ve taken from the storehouse. Robert Smith, the English clergyman, tells us, ‘If there be any truer measure of a man than by what he does, it must be by what he gives.’ If you haven’t already begun to give back, you need to resolve to start now,” Durham said.