Eileen Kradel and Dr. Georgia Hale gave differing but useful advice to graduates of the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith during the university’s commencement ceremonies held May 13 in the Stubblefield Center.
Eileen Kradel, former vice president of compliance at Washington Regional Medical Center and member of the UAFS Board of Visitors, spoke at the 10 a.m. ceremony and talked of the power of education to transform her life by chronicling her upbringing, which was filled with troubles.
“I grew up in Syracuse, New York, the oldest of 11 children, and we were very, very poor,” she said. “I lived in a housing project, we were on welfare, I stole penny candy from the corner store … I had a little gang. I beat a girl up once because I thought she looked rich.”
But while she faced the challenges of poverty, she also started kindergarten, where she was encouraged to read and learn by her teachers.
“Those women were my inspiration – they cared for me, they were brilliant, and so at one point I had to start making a decision,” she said. “And one of the important messages that I wanted to give to you is: you, and you alone, are in charge of those decisions about your life. I had to decide whether I could keep going with my gang … or do something else. And with the encouragement of the teachers, I got all A’s to please them … and I took the fork in the road and realized that my liberation was education. And that was my choice.”
Kradel gave additional life advice to graduates, reciting a quote from E.L. Doctorow about life.
“He said, ‘Life is like driving a car at night with the headlights on. You can only see a little ways in front of you, but you can do the whole journey that way,’” she said.
“Think about it – we can’t see the future,” Kradel added. “We can see the road ahead of us, just so far, and that’s the piece that we need to take care of. What are we going to do with that piece of road that we can see? … I thought those words were pretty profound.”
Kradel ended her speech by reciting stories of the adversities she faced in the healthcare field and how she navigated them.
“I know that life has unexpected challenges and there are a lot of roadblocks. The roadblocks can come in many sizes and shapes. And I think that rather than about a career, college may be about preparing you for how to deal with those unexpected challenges,” she said.
Hale, who is the provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at UAFS, gave practical advice to graduates, beginning by telling them to work hard.
“Don’t wait to be told to do things you know need to be done, even if they are not a part of your job description … It has been my experience that you never know who is watching you, and believe me, someone is always watching you,” Hale said. “The two most recent promotions I’ve gotten in my career were because someone was observing my work ethic. I can almost guarantee you that as my work ethic as the interim provost had been just mediocre, I would not be standing here before you today giving this commencement address.”
Dr. Georgia Hale
Referencing the mentors and supporters that each graduate undoubtedly had in their collegiate journey, Hale urged graduates to repay their mentorship by being mentors themselves.
“At a ceremony last night, many of you said, ‘I would not be here if it were not for…’ I urge you to try to be that someone, for someone else,” Hale said. “Mentor, encourage, champion, and promote wherever and whomever you get the opportunity. Always remember that someone did the same for you.”
Hale also communicated the importance of work-life balance and standing against “things that are unjust.”
Dr. Paul B. Beran, UAFS chancellor, also spoke during the ceremonies and stressed to graduates the challenges they will face navigating a workforce that is constantly disrupted by technology.
“The educational goal the faculty had for you was to prepare you for a career or graduate school on one hand, and preparing you for leaving that career to seek another on the other hand,” he said. “I’m finishing my 16th year as a president or chancellor, and my 11th here at UAFS. How many major corporations that many of you would love to work out now, even existed 16 years ago? Do you think the people whose diplomas I signed 16 years ago are still in the business or industry they were in when they graduated?”
He added that, based on his “non-scientific” survey of students, few of them are working in the same job and industry. The key, then, is to “stay relevant.”
“Staying relevant will take continual learning, staying relevant will mean continued skill development, staying relevant will require that you remain open to new ideas,” he said.
More than 650 graduates received bachelor’s or associate degrees or technical certificates after completing graduation requirements during the spring semester and first summer term.
In addition to Chancellor Beran and Hale, UAFS administrators presenting candidates were 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 ceremonies also included a musical prelude by the UAFS Symphonic Band, under the direction of Dr. Alex Zacharella; a performance of “The Star Spangled Banner” by student Kody Goad and graduates Deborah Ellis, Lela Nickell and Leah Schimberg; a call to order by Dr. Becky Williamson, chief marshal and bearer of the mace; the presentation of the colors by the UAFS ROTC; and a welcome to the Alumni Association by Rick Goins, alumni director 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.
About the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith
The University of Arkansas – Fort Smith is the premiere regional institution of Western Arkansas, connecting education with careers and serving as a driver of economic development and quality of place in the greater Fort Smith region. Through a small campus, dedicated professors, and the university’s unique bond with its community, students at UAFS are able to do more in the areas they are passionate about, both on- and off-campus, in a way that prepares them for post-graduate success. To find out how you can do more at UAFS, visit www.uafs.edu.