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University graduates urged to follow ‘North Star’

Dr. Alvin J. Williams asked graduates at the University of South Alabama to find a “personal North Star” to guide their lives.

“Your time here at South has provided a solid foundation, some core values, some sense of ethical purpose and some rich relationships, and along the way some periods of recalibration and reflection,” Williams, distinguished professor and chair of marketing and quantitative methods in the Mitchell College of Business, told graduates at Fall Commencement.

“Use this springboard strategically and carefully as you chart your personal journey north.”

Last Saturday afternoon, Dr. Tony Waldrop, USA president, conferred 1,418 degrees at the USA Mitchell Center. South awarded 679 bachelor’s degrees, 605 master’s degrees and 134 doctoral degrees.

Williams addressed several thousand students, families and friends. He recalled the career of Frederick Douglass, the 19th-century abolitionist, who published a newspaper called “The North Star” — a name bursting with meaning and symbolism.

“How will you chart your path northward?  What factors will influence your journey?  How will you handle detours, derailments and disappointments?” Williams asked. “While the answers are not simple, staying focused on your ultimate aim has to be your own personal compass. Use your tangible and intangible toolkits gained here at South as part of your resilience, your perseverance and your motivation.”

He cautioned against “success myopia” that can lead to disappointment and unwanted stress. He told of a former student who earned great financial rewards “but he was one of the most dissatisfied people I’ve ever encountered.”

“When are you successful?” Williams asked graduates. “Many of you here today will make a lot of money. You will have fancy job titles. But, so what? Is this really success? Only you can determine the answer as you move along your personal journey northward. Don’t define success too narrowly. … Craft a broader, more expansive definition of success in life.”

Williams suggested that South graduates shared a sense of purpose and urgency, along with independence and interdependence. They’ve all experienced highs and lows and seen the results of hard work and determination. His advice included recognizing a higher power, being receptive to daily learning, and working to leave a broad and deep footprint.

“Savor your personal journey northward, cultivate networks, stay connected to your foundation here at South, … define success broadly and do something good for others on your personal journey northward,” he said. “I wish you much success and godspeed, and, as we always say, Go Jags!”

(Courtesy of the University of South Alabama)

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