SPRING 1998: Commencement Speaker Thanks Grads For Achieving, Instead Of Failing

Wednesday, July 1, 1998
Achievement was the order of the day Sunday, May 17, as 203 men and women received degrees and diplomas during the first-ever May graduation at Vance-Granville Community College.

The college normally holds one graduation in August. This year, it begins a twice-a-year commencement schedule, with the first in May and a second in August.

Phillip J. Kirk Jr., a long-time North Carolina educator, business leader and political appointee, was the principal speaker. Among his remarks, he reminded graduates and the hundreds of family members and friends gathered at the gazebo by the campus lake to remember two of the most important and under-utilized words in the English language - “thank you.”

He then used those words to salute the graduates: “Thank you for working hard. Thank you for being achievers, rather than failures. Thank you for being here, rather than being outside the system with the many dropouts we have in this state and nation,” Kirk said.

The graduation brought to 5,709 the number of associate degrees and diplomas granted by Vance-Granville during its 28-year history. This does not include the 53 men and women who received G.E.D. or adult high school diplomas Sunday.

Dr. Ben F. Currin, VGCC president, conferred honors on the graduates. This proves to be significant since he announced Monday, May 18, he will retire at the end of this year, making Sunday’s graduation the next to last of his 18-year tenure at Vance-Granville.

Kirk, the graduation speaker, is president and secretary of the North Carolina Citizens for Business and Industry, and he also serves as chairman of both the State Board of Education and the N.C. School Improvement Council. He made his points in a light, humorous manner. An aide to two former governors and a U.S. senator, Kirk told of letters those leaders received. For instance, one woman wrote to Gov. Jim Holshouser and said, “I want you to know I broke my leg in three places and I’ll be in a casket for seven weeks!”

Quoting people such as former senator and presidential candidate Adlai E. Stevenson, Kirk urged the graduates to spend quality time with their families, to schedule leisure activities, and to do what is right, not necessarily what is popular. “In other words, stand for something,” he said.

Kirk also advised the graduates to work to change what isn’t working right, to work together with people, to take intelligent risks and not fear failure, and to “learn, earn and return, or give something back to others.”

A reception was held in the student lounge for the graduates and everyone attending the ceremonies.