Guest Opinions: Words from grad, prof
During this commencement season, it is common for guest speakers to impart words of wisdom. Some sink in, many more are soon forgotten.
So, in the spirit of these days of reflection and celebration, we give over this space to two speakers from the May 12 Commencement at Presbyterian College.
Janie Engelmann Miles and Jonathan Turnley were recognized as the valedictorians for the Class of 2018. The valedictory award recognizes graduating seniors who attained the highest academic average at the collegiate level. Also the 2018 Outstanding Senior, Miles delivered this year’s Outstanding Senior address, asking her fellow classmates to think about how far they’ve come since arriving at PC.
“These four years have given us an education, lifelong friends and memories, and an alma mater we can be proud of,” Miles said. “People say all the time that what makes PC is the people. We may be moving on from a building, a campus, an institution. But we are not moving on from PC because the people are PC.”
She spoke about memorable moments that she and many of her classmates share, like playing in or watching Blue Hose athletic events, studying in the library and residence halls, and even jumping in the fountain. She talked about how others warned her how fast the time would go.
“You start high school and everyone tells you how fast it will go, and you believe them, but you don’t really understand. Before you know it, you’re freaking out about where to go to college, and it feels like the biggest decision of your life. Then the decision is made, and everyone tells you again how it’ll fly by, how it’ll be the best four years of your life. And this time you’re sure you understand, but all of a sudden you’re in your cap and gown, and it is time to make actual grown-up decisions.”
Dr. Michael Rischbieter, professor of biology, delivered the 2018 Professor of the Year address, and spoke about how one of his favorite books inspired his talk, “Zen and the Art of Bass Fishing.”
Before going into the book, however, Rischbieter took a moment to thank some of his students, among others.
“I think you have taught me as much as I have taught you,” he said. “Hopefully you will keep in touch as you make your way into the big world awaiting you.”
Rischbieter went on to explain how Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance inspired his speech. Rischbieter said the book is “the author’s philosophical search for ‘quality,’ which he basically says is impossible to quantify, but you know it when you see it.”
Also, Rischbieter said the book is about “being in the moment and trying to let your mind analyze complex ideas without being tied in too directly with the facts.”
The book isn’t about Zen or motorcycle maintenance, Rischbieter said. “The message for me from the ‘Zen’ part of the title of the book and this speech is that I think sometimes you need to step back and rethink what you are doing at times, look at it from a different perspective, and maybe you will find the solution to that particular problem.” Rischbieter went on to explain what bass fishing has meant to him in his life. Rischbieter grew up catching many types of fish, but admitted that catching bass was an “enigma” to him when he first tried it.
“I got really scientific with it, obsessed with it, and I did get pretty good at it,” he said, “but it became something other than what fishing had always been for me, so I got out of it.” After he stopped bass fishing, Rischbieter realized catching fish wasn’t most important. Instead, he said, what was much more important was “actually enjoying being outdoors and being away from everybody and everything. To really appreciate the incredible beauty in nature, and to just take a depth breath and relax.”
Rischbieter told the graduating seniors he hopes they find a special place like he’s rediscovered with fishing - “let your mind relax a bit; it is an amazing feeling.”
PC News Service contributed to this article. More about PC Commencement at presby.edu and MyClintonNews.com