Most people don’t associate the letter F with college graduation, but Dr. Maria Markham did just that during her remarks Dec. 14 at the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith’s fall commencement ceremony.
Markham, director of the Arkansas Department of Higher Education, gave graduates three “F’s for success”: failure, fear and forward, elaborating on how to use these F’s to live a happy and fulfilling life.
“Completion of a college credential represents what I hope is one of many successes that you will realize on your journey. However, you will have many failures in your life too. I’ve had plenty,” she said. “It is what you do during those valleys that determine the heights of your mountain peaks. How you view your failures and what you do with those lessons will teach you the difference between success and repeating the same mistakes.”
Markham went on to implore graduates to control their fear and use it as a positive force in their lives.
“A key component of wisdom is fearlessness. And that’s not the absence of fear, but rather not letting your fears get in the way,” she said. “You have to be the gatekeeper. Fear is going to be a player in your life, but you have to decide how much of that fear to let in and what you are going to do with it.
“But here’s the ironic thing about fear – even though we know that it’s pointless to be afraid, we all still do it. The most wonderful things in life lie just on the other side of fear,” she continued, pointing to the birth of a child as an example of a wondrous occurrence that carries a great amount of fear with it. “Fear may be pointless, but it does point to some of the most memorable and meaningful moments in your life. So let feeling fear be an exciting experience for you. It’s letting you know that something great may be just around the corner.”
Her final F, forward, concluded her speech with a call to action for graduates to never stop progressing towards their goals.
“Every story you’ve ever connected with, every leader you’ve ever admired, every teeny little accomplishment you’ve ever made in your life resulted from action,” she said. “You’ve had a choice – you can either be a passive victim of circumstance, or you can be the active hero in the story of your life. So which will you choose?”
“Your time is limited, and not to be wasted living someone else’s life on someone else’s timeline,” she continued. “Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition to keep moving forward. You are never too old, too young, too poor, too female, too blonde, to make a positive change for yourself. So long as your desire to explore and grow is greater than your desire not to screw up, you’re on the right track.”
Dr. Paul B. Beran, UAFS chancellor, spoke before Markham, where he stressed to graduates the importance of adapting to change.
“Change is happening all around us at breakneck speed. If you want real success though, you have to anticipate the change and adapt to the change before the need even arises. You have to move faster than the change,” Beran said. “With your degree in hand, getting past the curve is now up to you and your success will depend on your own drive, ambition, motivation and continued learning.”
Dr. Donald Bobbitt, president of the University of Arkansas System, also spoke briefly during the ceremony.
The ceremonies also included the recognition of a UAFS graduate to be commissioned as second lieutenants in the Army Reserve – Michael Dotson of Fort Smith. He participated in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) at UAFS.
In addition to Chancellor Beran, UAFS administrators presenting candidates were Dr. Georgia Hale, provost and senior vice chancellor; Dr. Ken Warden, dean of the College of Applied Science and Technology; Dr. Ashok Subramanian, dean of the College of Business; Dr. Carolyn Mosley, dean of the College of Health Sciences; Dr. Paul Hankins, dean of the College of Communication, Languages, Arts and Social Sciences; Dr. Ron Darbeau, dean of the College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics; Dr. Norm Dennis, senior associate dean for the College of Engineering at the University of Arkansas – Fayetteville; and Wayne Womack, registrar.
The ceremony included a musical prelude by the UAFS Symphonic Band; a performance of “The Star Spangled Banner” by student vocalist Kody Goad; a call to order by Dr. Larry Faulk, chief marshal and bearer of the mace; the presentation of the colors by the UAFS ROTC; and a welcome to the Alumni Association by Eric Smithson, chair of the Alumni Advisory Council at UAFS.
Pre-ceremony music and a post-recessional bell peal were performed on the Donald W. Reynolds Bell Tower Carillon by Dr. Stephen Husarik, head carillonneur.