PARKERSBURG - During the spring commencement at West Virginia University at Parkersburg, the class of 2013 said their final goodbye and prepared to begin their lives in their fields of study.
Speaking at Saturday's exercise as commencement speaker was Gregory K. Smith, retired president and CEO of Mountain State Blue Cross Blue Shield, and current chairman of the board of directors of Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield West Virginia. Smith is a former member of the West Virginia House of Delegates.
Smith said the degrees and certificates the students received are only part of what they gained from their years of study.
Presented with an honorary degree was commencement speaker Gregory K. Smith, third from left, chairman of the board of directors of Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield West Virginia. He was presented with the degree by, from left, Jamie Six, chairman of the West Virginia University at Parkersburg Board of Governors, WVU-P President Marie Foster Gnage and Dr. Rhonda Tracy, senior vice president, academic affairs. (Photo by Jeffrey Saulton)
"One thing that I believe complements that degree so much you will find it incredible," he said. "It's simply the interpersonal skills and the values, both human and business values, you will take with you."
Smith said there are three skills needed to get a start in a career.
"I can boil those three skills that are so important down to three words," he said. "Trust, respect and fairness - nothing you haven't heard or understand, but it's not something taught in the classroom every day."
Smith said he never wanted to work with someone he did not trust and did not want anyone who worked for him to not have the same trust for him.
"It works both ways," he said. "In terms of respect, respect everyone's differences and respect the fact we are not all alike, whether it's politics or whether it's religion, or lifestyles or priorities - we are just different.
"The more we respect the fact we are different the easier it will be."
Smith said there is not one person who doesn't have problems or issues they have to deal with daily. Everyone has insecurities, he said.
"You can look at who you think is the most successful and accomplished person you know and I can promise you they are insecure about something," he said. "It's just human nature for us to not only be different but out of our own set of circumstances we have to deal with the problems and issues and insecurities."
Smith said the person who realizes and understands that fact will be "ahead of the game."
The recent graduate needs to understand not everything will go as they hoped or planned, Smith added.
"Nothing happens without bumps and bruises," he said. "Don't expect instant gratification, you have so much to be proud of.
"You are so far ahead of the curve, but I will tell you and I promise you, if you will add interpersonal skills and the ability to work with people and understand, trust and respect you will be so far ahead you will not believe it."
Smith closed with a quote from Garry Trudeau, creator of the "Doonesbury" comic strip.
"Trudeau said 'commencement speeches were invented for our children in the belief that out-going college students should never be released into the world until they have been properly sedated,'" he said. "I hope I have done my small part in that."
The graduation class included 361 graduates receiving approximately 438 degrees and certificates, of which about 166 members were scheduled to participate in Saturday's ceremony, the highest number to ever participate, officials said.