August 2018 Commencement Address by Dr. Frank Andrasik
President Rudd, Provost Weddle-West, Distinguished Members of the Platform Party, Graduates, Family Members & Friends, as well as my special guests—My Loving Wife, Candy, her sister Kim & husband, Kevin Fornes, Candy's daughter, Holly Renehan & our 2 Beautiful Granddaughters, Harper & Rhiley; with a special shout out to all of the Psychology Graduates, as well as 2 of our Doctoral Students with whom I will have the pleasure of hooding later in this Ceremony—Ms. Jeanelle Ali and Ms. Melissa Smigelsky.
I stand before you extremely honored and humbled as the 26th recipient of the University of Memphis coveted Sparks Award. In preparing my remarks, I searched the web and learned that Dr. Willard Sparks had a humble beginning, was born in a town with less than 300 residents, worked tirelessly to succeed, treated everyone with kindness and respect, and generously gave back to his educational institution and community.
I mention this for 2 reasons. One is to honor and remember the person who has made this award possible. Second, like many of you at the University of Memphis and Dr. Sparks himself, I am a first-generation student and still the only one to progress to the doctoral level. This helps me to realize the significance of what you have accomplished by being here today.
In contemplating my address, my thoughts centered on what I, someone old enough to be your parent and for many your grandparent, could possibly say that would be meaningful to you. Further, does anyone remember their commencement speaker? The precious few who might certainly will not remember what was said. With a name like Andrasik, I have no expectations of you remembering me.
As a child, I was fortunate to make the city league all-star baseball team. At our first meeting, the coach called us out one-by-one. At some point he yelled out "Andruscowitz". He repeated this name throughout his rollcall, until I was the only player left. At that point I realized he meant me! So, if you come anywhere close to remembering your speaker today as something like "Andruscowitz" I'll be pleased.
My thoughts also turned to our 16th President, Abraham Lincoln, who stated in his Gettysburg Address: "The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here....." I also recalled the words of Maya Angelou, an internationally known and celebrated writer, educator, and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, who similarly said: "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did...."
However, I hope perhaps the remainder of their quotes may ring true. Lincoln said, "The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here....but it can never forget what they did here." And, for Ms. Angelou: "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did...but people will never forget how you made them feel." I hope you never forget your accomplishments to date and that, along the way, you have left lasting impressions on others.
Acronyms can serve as strong memory aids, so I have organized my brief message around a term you know well—TIGERS—to help you possibly recall and act upon something shared today.
T: TREASURE: Treasure those who helped you reach this milestone. The ones who sacrificed along with you. Who picked you up when you could not do so alone. Express your deep and abiding love for them.
I grew up in a large extended family where love was evident, but among the males we did not overtly express our love. I long wanted to express my love to my father, but the words simply never came out—likely in part to him owning a small neighborhood grocery store and having to work 7 days each week, year in and out. Although our time was limited, I nevertheless sensed how deeply he cared for all of his 6 children.
In the late 80's I learned my father had a serious health condition—how serious, I could not determine, as my mother, well-intentioned, downplayed his condition. I finally summoned the courage to phone his physician. Being mindful of privacy and patient rights I knew little could be shared. I then lived at some distance from him, which led me to ask: "If he was your father, how often would you come to see him?" His reply was a quick "as often as I could." And visit often I did.
Even with the extensive motivation I now had, I could not say "I love you" to him my first few trips. After several trips, I finally blurted out the words, "Dad, I love you", and he effortlessly replied in kind, along with a heartfelt hug. I can't begin to describe the weight that was lifted from my shoulders, nor the peace I began to feel in his presence. He passed soon thereafter and I was present when he took his last strained breath, followed by the slow fading of his pulse. Only hours before, we again expressed our love for one another.
I vowed then to always treasure and remind those important to me of my deep love and caring for them. Hardly a day passes without me expressing my love to my 2 daughters, now in their mid-30's. They continue to say, "Dad, I know this; you don't have to keep telling me." My reply is simple; "Yes, I don't have to...I want to." Tell those important to you of your love for them...and how you Treasure them.
I-IMAGINE: As I sat where you now sit, I never imagined or dreamed where my degree might take me. Equipped with your degree and wealth of knowledge, dream big...set your sights high. Avoid the temptation to idle in place.
G-GRIT and GROWTH MIND SET: Psychologist Angela Duckworth, a MacArthur "genius" fellow, has written extensively about GRIT. Simply put, it represents self-control and stick-to-it-iveness. GRIT is more predictive of success than talent or IQ. Fortunately, it can be learned and is not bounded by class, race, culture, etc. When combined with Psychologist Carol Dweck's notion of "Growth Mind Set" and 4 action steps, you have a recipe for success: Step 1-Find your burning interest; Step 2-Practice, practice, practice; Step 3-Develop a higher purpose and passion; & Step 4-Overcome pessimism.
We live in somewhat turbulent and confusing times, and it is easy to become pessimistic. Should pessimism rear its ugly head, remember to circle back to Step 1-Find your burning interest.
E: ENCOURAGE: Your accomplishments are indeed impressive, and I believe they come with an obligation to encourage and help others. Look for opportunities to pay it forward and, again, remember those who encouraged you. Without the support, caring, and training of my professors, I would not be standing before you here today.
R: RESPECT: It is right to respect one's elders, their wisdom, positions, institutions, and the like. But you are or soon will become leaders at work and within your community. Do not be afraid to share your views, no matter how divergent they may be. You have a right to be heard. The growth and progress of our nation depends on you. When you disagree with what is happening, when you decide it is time to take a stand...which I urge you to do, just remember to do so in a respectful way.
S-STORY: Your past is part of your story...but so is your future. What will your story be? Now is the time to make great plans, commit to your highest goals, hold fast to your dreams, and write your own story.
"Do...or do not...There is no try!"
Congratulations and Best Wishes, Graduates!