The crisp December weather did nothing to keep the hordes of students, family and friends from congregating on the Shippensburg University campus today for the university’s 2017 winter commencement ceremony.
This morning, family members and friends made their way into Heiges Field House, some arriving more than an hour before the 11 a.m. ceremony. As the field house’s auditorium began to fill, the hum of excited voices within the building escalated in volume.
The graduating class led into the auditorium by mace bearer and music professor Blaine Shover. The students were followed by SU faculty members, clad in gowns that matched the universities at which they received their doctorate degrees.
SU President Laurie Carter took to the podium to introduce John Clinton, the former president and CEO of the Shippensburg University Foundation, to deliver the commencement address. Clinton served in this position for 34 years before retiring in the fall of 2017.
Throughout his tenure as president and CEO, Clinton increased the assets of the SU Foundation from $1 million to $80 million, and played a role in the enhancement or construction of buildings including Old Main, Shippen Hall and the H. Ric Luhrs Performing Arts Center.
Clinton was born into a military family, in a hospital located on a U.S. Marine base. He said his family’s poor financial situation, combined with his father’s military history, created a regimented childhood for Clinton.
“We would have been considered financially poor, and our life growing up was regimented,” Clinton said.
As a result of his father’s career, Clinton’s family moved numerous times during his childhood.
“Every time we moved, I needed to prove myself through physical altercations,” Clinton said. “You had to develop street smarts and tenacity, and it made me realize the reality of prejudice.”
Following his high school graduation, Clinton’s father got him a job as a salesman at the same electrical plant at which he was employed. As a salesman, he was required to travel door-to-door and make cold calls.
During that time, Clinton was an introvert due to the years he had spent traveling around the country with his family. Slowly, he began to grow in confidence and sold more than 40 units of the college scholarships offered by the plant.
“I learned that you can overcome your fears,” Clinton said. “The key is having a genuine passion about what you are doing.”
When he was asked to join the SU Foundation, Clinton did not foresee himself staying in the position for too long.
“I thought this would be a stop on my career path — what I found was a calling,” Clinton said. “I stayed because of you, and because of the thousands of students that have attended this quality university.”
Following Clinton’s speech, the deans of the John L. Grove College of Business, College of Education & Human Services and the College of Arts & Sciences presented each student with the leather-bound folder that would hold their degrees.
Before dismissing the crowd, Carter took several minutes to honor the graduates’ achievements.
“Think back to when you first stepped foot on campus — you had goals,” Carter said. “As for achieving success, you’ll do that again and again.”
The alma mater was sung by SU student Zachary Miller, who also sang the national anthem at the beginning of the ceremony. The invocation and benediction were delivered by the Rev. Jan Bye, SU’s campus minister.
“As your time at Ship comes to an end, may you find the right path to follow and the right people to love,” Bye said.
Student Government Association Sen. Alexis Wright said she enjoyed seeing her friends graduate, as well as students with whom she had attended high school.
“It’s always nice to see people succeed,” Wright said.