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Commencement speaker shares lessons for a successful life and career

BOONE—December graduates at Appalachian State University were counseled to believe in themselves, continue to learn and give back to their community and society.

View larger imageDr. Anne Matthews

Commencement speaker Dr. Anne Matthews shared those lessons, which she said had contributed to her success personally and professionally.

Matthews is president of Matthews and Associates, an educational consulting firm in Columbia, S.C., and vice president of Rotary International. She has a doctorate from the University of South Carolina and a master’s degree from Appalachian.

Speaking to the 228 graduate and 1,031 undergraduate students who received their degrees Dec. 14, Matthews’ advice began with the importance of self-belief.

“Believe in your abilities to achieve what you want in life,” she said. “Don’t let anyone place limitations on your dreams. Set goals for all aspects of your life and work hard to make them a reality.”

Her second lesson focused on the importance of lifelong learning. “Don’t be foolish enough to think today that because you have earned a college degree that you are educated,” she said. “Life is like a constantly changing database of knowledge. The degrees you earned at this wonderful institution are the tools to help you to continue to learn.”

Every day will bring opportunities for graduates to add to their database of knowledge, she said. “Your professors have given you the foundation to experience life to its fullest. They have given you the wings. It is now up to you to fly.”

Matthews ended her talk by urging graduates to include a focus on public service as part of their future plans. “For life to have real meaning, it must have direction, purpose and structure,” she said. Part of success comes from being involved in a cause that helps the less fortunate in the world, she added.

“There is an old adage that I hope you will use, value and adopt in your life. The more you give the more you get,” she said. “I firmly believe for life to be rewarding we have to give more than we get.”

Matthews said she has lived that adage for the past 25 years through her work with Rotary International, which has taken her to developing countries worldwide. “I have had a very successful career and personal life. I have done about anything I wanted to do and have had high honors bestowed on me. But all those honors pale in comparison to what I have done in recent years to help people who have no means to help themselves,” she said.

“As you walk through life, think about those who are less fortunate. Give of your time, your energy, your financial resources to help those who are not blessed with the same lifestyle that you and I have,” Matthews said. “We can never give anything away. It always comes back to us many times over.”