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Pa. Governor Edward G. Rendell Addresses Susquehanna University Graduates

May 11, 2008

SELINSGROVE, Pa., May 11 – In a commencement speech to students at Susquehanna University, Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell delivered what amounted to his recipe book for success. He told the graduating class to define their own criteria for success, set high goals, remain patient and find time to help others.

“The most important thing is that you don't let society or anyone else set the criteria of success for you,” he said. “You set it. You be the judge. You evaluate how you are doing, what your goals are. And if you reach your goals and you are happy in what you are doing, you will be successful at it. Don't worry about anything else.”

Susquehanna, a four-year, private liberal arts school, conferred bachelor's degrees today upon 449 students and associate's degrees to five in its 150th academic year. Honorary degrees were conferred on four individuals, including Rendell. Others receiving honorary degrees were the Rev. James Gunther, Samuel Ross and Rocco Ortenzio. About 5,000 people attended the historic ceremony in the university's field house.

Susquehanna President L. Jay Lemons reminded the sesquicentennial graduates of their significant place in the history of the university. “Collectively and individually, the Class of 2008 has a significant legacy. Yet the best is before you. You leave here today primed for great achievement, distinguished leadership and heartfelt service in continuation of Susquehanna's mission. Those three values – achievement, leadership, service – formed the foundation of our university from its opening 150 years ago and remain durable yet dynamic as we learn more about the world, shape it, and are shaped by it.”

Rendell told the graduates they should set high goals for themselves and not be afraid of failure. “It's enormously important,” he said. “Too many people live unhappy lives because they had a goal – they had something they really wanted to do or something they really wanted to accomplish, something they really wanted to see and never got there because they hadn't tried. You don't want to be 65 and say, ‘Why didn't I? What if?'”

Quoting Lester Brown, a musician from his era, Rendell urged the graduates to “shoot for the moon. Even if you miss you will fall among the stars.”

Rendell also suggested that the graduates try to overcome their generation's quest for immediate gratification. “Don't be impatient, because success is almost never instantaneous,” he said. “And if you start out with a job that isn't what you think you ought to be doing – if they don't let you run the company right off – don't be impatient.”

Recalling the advice of his father, who died when Rendell was 14 years old, Rendell said, “He once told me that if in your first job they hand you a broom and tell you to sweep the floor, you be the best sweeper that the place has ever seen, and you won't be sweeping the floor for very long.”

Invoking his own years of public service, Rendell urged the graduates to give back to the community. “I graduated from law school some 40 years ago, and in that time I worked in the public sector for 38 years. I've never made what our society considered real money, and I've never missed it for a day. There has never been anything my wife and I really wanted to buy that we couldn't buy, never been anything we really wanted to do that we couldn't do. And we've had a wonderful lifetime of helping people.”

Rendell received an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree for his work on behalf of the people of Pennsylvania. Ross, a 1954 biology graduate of Susquehanna, is a former chairman of the board of Highmark Inc. and former chair of the Susquehanna board. He received an honorary Doctorate of Business Administration. He served in various capacities for 25 years at Pennsylvania Blue Shield before joining Highmark in 1970 as vice president of administrative services. He was promoted in 1981 to senior vice president of administration and planning, and quickly rose to the position of president and chief executive officer.

Ortenzio, a visionary businessman who founded several companies that have provided important medical services to patients in need, received an honorary Doctorate of Business Administration. He served on Susquehanna's board for six years, beginning in 1988. His son Marty is a 1983 graduate of Susquehanna, and his grandson, David, is a member of the class of 2010.

Gunther, who served for seven years on the university's board, received an honorary doctorate of humane letters. He served the Transfiguration Lutheran Church in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City for 38 years and founded the Harlem College Assistance Project, which sent more than 5,000 young black and Hispanic students to college. In addition, he helped to establish the Harlem Urban Development Corporation, which constructed substantial new and rehabilitated housing in Harlem, as well as commercial revitalization. He is a graduate of Philadelphia College of Bible, Houghton College, the Philadelphia Lutheran Theological Seminary –where he was the only African American in his graduating class—and Harvard University. He received an honorary degree from Wittenberg University.

Contact: Gerald Cohen



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