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Develop Good Values System and Practice Good Ethics, Appalachian Graduates Told

BOONE—Students traded their baseball caps, visors and other youthful headwear for the traditional black mortar board and tassel to participate in commencement ceremonies May 7 and 8 at Appalachian State University.

More than 1,700 students received degrees over the weekend. Each of Appalachian’s six degree-granting colleges or schools held individual ceremonies. An additional 650 students who will complete degree requirements this summer were invited to participate in the May ceremonies.

Geraldine “Gerry” Smith, a 1970 graduate of Appalachian, spoke to graduates of the Walker College of Business on Saturday, May 7. Smith is first vice president of investments and a financial consultant for Smith Barney in Charlotte.

Smith told graduates that a college degree was just one of the many tools needed for a successful career.

“It goes without saying that hard work, dedication and perseverance are components of success that do not change,” she said. “When you wake up tomorrow, you begin the next chapter of your life with a clean slate. You will have a college degree from a fine school and be free to explore career paths and find your place in the business world. I encourage you to find work about which you are passionate.”

Smith found her passion for business while a student at Appalachian. She became interested in financial markets after taking an economics class her sophomore year. A Watauga County native, Smith earned both an undergraduate degree and a M.A. in economics from Appalachian.

Working in the corporate world can bring ethical challenges, Smith told graduates. Honesty, integrity and respect will guide them through any ethical dilemma.

” There are always opportunities to be less than ethical in dealing with others,” she said. “The business world has seen far too much fraud and lack of ethics over the last several years. Steps are being taken by government regulators to stop unethical business practices, but you and I are the only people who can help corporate America regain the trust and respect of the public and of the world. The rewards for being honest, trustworthy and ethical are tremendous and are the very foundation of success.”

Graduates of the university’s largest college, the College of Arts and Sciences, heard from Appalachian alumnus Chris Swecker on Sunday, May 8. Swecker, a 1978 graduate, was special agent in charge of the FBI’s field office in Charlotte from 1999-2004.

Swecker is now an assistant director for the FBI’s criminal investigative division based in Washington, D.C., where he coordinates, manages and directs all criminal investigative programs nationwide. He said that since Sept. 11, 2001, the threat of terrorism had become part of everyday life, but a breakdown of corporate values and a rise in corporate fraud were growing concerns.

” I have seen hundreds if not thousands of examples of people who made very bad decisions because their values system failed, they failed it, or they never had one to begin with,” Swecker said. “They did not wake up one day and decide to become crooks. They succumbed to a slow, steady process where their value lines became blurred.”

Swecker told graduates to define their values now, or risk being defined by the values of others.

” Choose now to live and work under a well-defined system of core values,” he said. “Establish a reputation for being responsible and accountable for your actions, having a strong work ethic, not cutting corners, and showing leadership by exhibiting pride in what you do. There are no short cuts to success. Establish the lines that you will not cross.”

Dr. Deforia Lane, associate director of the Ireland Cancer Center and director of music therapy at University Hospitals of Cleveland, Ireland Cancer Center, and Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital, spoke to graduates of the Hayes School of Music.

Lane told graduates that the road from college to career doesn’t always follow a straight path, but that the journey can provide experiences that will sustain them for a lifetime.

” What will you do if your dreams are deferred?,” she asked. “How you handle those times will have as much if not more impact on the rest of your life in shaping who you are and how you relate to others”

Lane used her own life story as an example. Rather than complain when her career was delayed by marriage, motherhood and her husband’s military career, Lane embraced opportunities to volunteer as a choir director and as a dental chair-side assistant on a U.S. Army base – experiences that helped her learn about people, she said.

Some years later, after earning a master’s degree and beginning work with developmentally challenged children, Lane was diagnosed with breast cancer.

To thank members of a support group for the hope they had given her, Lane led a workshop in music therapy for professionals in the cancer center. She soon was asked to volunteer in the center as a music therapist, and in less than a year, was offered a full-time job there.

” And when I tell you that I thought the tragedy of cancer would lead to the end of my life, it literally led to the treasure of being able to share music therapy with people just like me and you,” she said. “Life is not always as it seems. The things you don’t like can lead to the things that you do (like).”

George H. Ryan, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Industries of America/Graphic Arts Technical Foundation, spoke to graduates of the College of Fine and Applied Arts.

Both the Cratis D. Williams Graduate School and Reich College of Education showed video presentations during their commencement program in lieu of speakers.