Heidelberg University undergraduate commencement speaker gave the graduates two orders: Support the alumni association and "hit the ground running to find the best career."
Retired Lt. Col. Harold Brown of the United States Air Force Tuskegee Airmen delivered the commencement address "As much as things change, they remain the same" during Heidelberg's 160th annual undergraduate commencement ceremony Sunday afternoon.
Brown told graduates they entered Heidelberg during the worst recession since the Great Depression.
Brown described his life at the age of the graduates and he, at a young age, wanted to become a military pilot. At age 19, Brown joined the 332nd Fighter Group and completed 30 missions. Brown said he survived three plane crashes, including one where he became a prisoner of war and was sent to a German POW camp.
To survive three major accidents, Brown said, "Someone must have been smiling down on me."
As the country's economy starts to return to normal and people are again borrowing money, Brown said the degree graduates received "will open doors, but your education will not determine whether you will stay. You have to supply more skills and to get used to learning from now on."
"There are several skills that will stay with you," Brown said. "The first on my list is to learn how to think critically. Second is to communicate effectively with passion and enthusiasm. Communication is an essential skill that you will use throughout any employment."
The third skill Brown said is to work in a team.
"This skill was critical for me in my military career and will be for your success," Brown said. "Finally, learn to get stuff done. You are going to enter into a fast-paced world where you have to work quickly and efficiently."
Brown's final message was "to make the Heidelberg family proud!"
More than 200 graduates earned bachelor's degrees Sunday, including bachelor's of arts, bachelor's of science and bachelor's of music degrees.
Mackenzie Wallace, who received a bachelor's of science degree, was the undergraduate speaker. He played football, participated in a play and was a regular personality on WHEI.
"Heidelberg did not make me great at one thing, but good at a lot of different things." Wallace said. "Heidelberg allowed us to be that athlete, part of Greek life, part of the theatre or all three."
Wallace said that when he was deciding on attending Heidelberg, his high school coach asked him if he would still be there and still be happy in four years.
"I am still here and I am happy and couldn't be more ecstatic to be graduating from Heidelberg. Don't worry that you are not great at one thing!"
It took six years for Kathy Borton of Tiffin to earn her bachelor's of arts degree in business administration. She took classes every semester while working a full-time job.
"I feel proud and determined about graduating magna cum laude," Borton said. "I want my education to prove to be beneficial. I value the knowledge and self-confidence my education has given me."
Borton said she enjoyed the professors, class interactions and the challenges of finals - "especially once they were over."
Borton gave advice to future college grads. She said, "Go to college immediately after high school and graduate before you have a full-time job. I would advise them to talk to other students who have already taken the class to find out what to expect from professors prior to taking the class and to recommend making friends with other students in your major to create friends to study with."
"I would tell them that actually attending classes and studying has a great impact on not only your grades and knowledge, but ultimately your happiness," she said.
Honorary degrees were presented to Brown and Rev. David Mark Greenhaw, president and professor of preaching and worship at Eden Theological seminary, who spoke during the baccalaureate service Sunday morning.