WVU-P commencement held

PARKERSBURG — Saturday’s spring commencement at West Virginia University at Parkersburg was the culmination of one journey and the start of another for many graduates.

“You are now part of a tradition and community; there have been many people before you sitting in those same chairs, wearing those same robes and graduating with those same degrees, but there has never been another you,” said Chad Shealy, the 2019 Spring Graduation Commencement speaker at West Virginia University at Parkersburg.

Saturday morning, the college awarded 244 certificate and associate degrees as well as 114 bachelor’s degrees to 272 students this semester.

Austin Grimmett, President of the Student Government Association, who was also graduating Saturday, kicked off the speeches, saying ” Everyone here today had a common goal that has brought you here.”

Grimmett said he was a first generation college student, facing what seemed to be four very long years with no idea what to expect.

“I was not alone,” he said, “The faculty was there to help me along the way, as well as many friends, and because of each of you, these four years that I expected to feel like an eternity has passed in the blink of an eye.”

This year’s student commencement speaker was Sharon O’Neill, the state’s eldest community and technical college graduate

“I am 80 years old, and let me tell you, the world has changed a lot in 80 years,” O’Neill said.

Born Feb. 6, 1936, in Parkersburg, O’Neill holds many life experiences as she was a single mother of five children, and witnessed many monumental events including the JFK assassination, the Civil Rights Movement and World War II. Each challenge and change O’Neill met, she conquered with a belief in herself, and encouraged graduates to do the same.

O’Neill reached out to those in the crowd, really aiming her message to those who have been faced with the most hardships.

“To those who have spent their lives hearing statements such as ‘you are a single parent, you can’t work, go to school and take care of your family,’ I want you to know you can,” said O’Neill.

She reached out to those who have endured life’s traumas such as abuse, military traumas, loss of a family member.

“To those who say you can’t, remind yourself ‘I conquered those challenges I can conquer anything that I have to,'” she said.

There were a wide range of inspirational speakers, all encouraging the students to push forward and chase every dream.

“You don’t want to look over your shoulder down the road and say I wish I would have,” Sam Winans, chair of WVU-P’s Board of Governors.

Winans reminded students that as they reach for those dreams to not be afraid of failure, because every day is a chance to learn.

“Fight for that dream,” he said, “The future is not that far away, it arrives with every second.”

Shealy is superintendent of the Vicksburg Warren School District in Vicksburg, Miss., and a first-generation college graduate.

“I have many titles but my favorite is teacher,” he said.

Shealy credits the sacrifices of past family generations for his current accomplishments.

“Higher education is always so important to all of those who made it possible for me, even though life never allowed them to obtain one for themselves,” said Shealy.

Touching on his main message that “there will never be another you,” Shealy said everyone’s road to graduation was paved differently.

“Our past is our prologue,” he said.

“No one was ever recorded in history for being like everyone else,” he said.

Shealy reminded those attending that “those heroes and heroines of history were just people who made a choice that has changed the world.”

“That is an awesome truth to consider; that you have something to offer that no one else will be able to provide,” Shealy said.

“Every single thing you do matters. Embrace what makes you you, be the best you, and let your next steps always be your greatest,” he said.

Also during commencement, WVU-P recognized Andrew Walker as the Bernard P. McDonough Outstanding Faculty Member of the Year. Walker, an assistant professor of criminal justice, received his Masters of Science in Criminal Justice from Marshall University and is currently a PhD candidate in Social and Behavioral Science from West Virginia University. He is also the advisor for the Phi Theta Kappa Sigma Omega Chapter honor society and student criminal justice organization on campus.