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Education is an Investment That Will Help the Nation Prosper, Graduation Speaker Says

By Jane Nicholson

BOONE–Be bullish on graduate education as an investment because of its value to your personal life and to the life of the nation, Debra Stewart told graduates of Appalachian State University’s Cratis Williams Gradate School Saturday morning.

Stewart is president of the Council of Graduate Schools, a national organization based in Washington, D.C., and a former faculty member and administrator at N.C. State University.

Using U.S. trade policy and the loss of jobs to off-shore competition as a frame of reference, Stewart said “Graduate education is the key to positioning our country to be as competitive in the future as it has in the past, given that there is an inevitable globalization of the workforce.

To succeed in the global economy, the country needs a workforce that has the capacity to create, to absorb, to respond to new knowledge and to communicate it, Stewart said. “It is these very capabilities that are the essential hallmarks of a workforce poised to lead in the knowledge economies of the future.

” This very event (of conferring graduate degrees) telegraphs more precisely than any balance of trade report ever could, that you personally and our nation collectively will survive and thrive, not withstanding the vagaries and the uncertainties of the international economy.”

Bob Inman did what he does best while addressing graduates of Appalachian’s College of Fine and Applied Arts on Saturday afternoon. He told stories about the people who set good examples by the way they lived and taught him the value of setting goals, mentoring others, and refusing to let stereotypes stifle their dreams.

Inman is a novelist, playwright and a former WBTV news anchor. His novels include “Captain Saturday,” “Dairy Queen Days” and “Home Fires Burning,” which he adapted for a Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation.

When Inman’s father-in-law Paul Strong suffered a massive stroke, doctors said he wouldn’t survive. But while his body was devastated, his father-in-law was determined to recover. Recovery was like pushing against a brick wall, Inman said, but Strong refused to give up. He recovered from the stroke to live 17 more years.

” I learned that adversity can be an opportunity,” Inman said of his father-in-law’s experience. “We all have our brick walls of one kind or another – things that people might say we just can’t do. We have two choices. We can shrug and walk away, or we can hitch up our britches and push. We may or may not move that particular wall, but even if we don’t, we become stronger for trying”

The late WBTV broadcaster Jim Patterson taught Inman that one of the most important things a person can do is to invest time and energy in young people. Patterson spent so much time listening to the young employees at WBTV that they called him Uncle Jim. “There’s always a young person who needs our interest, our encouragement, our expectations and occasionally our advice,” he said. “We owe it to the Uncle Jims in our lives to pass it along.”

Inman also talked about his high school friend and football teammate Booger Winston, who no one expected to succeed in the sport. Even though Winston was the biggest, slowest member of the team, he never quit and became a starter his senior year. He held on to the drive to succeed, going on to college and eventually earning a Ph.D. He retired last year as a distinguished professor from the University of Georgia, Inman said.

” Booger Winston taught me that we can’t let people pigeon-hole us or put labels on us. We can’t let the common wisdom rule our lives,” he said. “We have to decide who we want to be and work hard to become that person. We can’t always control the circumstances in which we find ourselves, but we can darn sure do something about it.”

Appalachian’s four colleges and two schools held individual ceremonies. A total of 1,973 undergraduates and 420 graduates received degrees during the events. Other graduation speakers were:

Henry McKoy, Africa regional director for the Peace Corps, College of Arts and Sciences.

June Hinckley, music and fine arts education specialist with the Florida Department of Education, Hayes School of Music.

Maria Penninger, regional vice president of sales operations for Avon Products Inc. in Atlanta, Walker College of Business.

A multimedia presentation focusing on students was shown at the Reich College of Education event.