On a picturesque campus overlooking verdant Cache Valley, Utah State University graduates were advised Saturday to work for and "embrace the core values that have inspired the democratic process."
Doing so, said banker, business and community leader Spencer F. Eccles, means "you will succeed beyond your wildest dreams, and find happiness in the process."Eccles, who is chairman and chief executive officer of First Security Corp., was the keynote speaker at the 103rd commencement exercises in the nearly filled 10,200-seat Spectrum for some 3,400 graduates. He also received an honorary doctorate of finance.
Four other honorary doctorates were awarded at the commencement, which was conducted by USU President George H. Emert.
The president, who also spoke, conferred the honorary degrees, presented special awards and honors to faculty and introduced valedictorians from eight academic colleges.
Other honorary doctorate recipients and their degrees were: President Boyd K. Packer, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, doctor of humanities; Kent W. Colton, a national housing leader who is executive vice president and chief executive officer of the National Association of Home Builders, doctor of business and economic development; Amos A. Jordan, a retired brigadier general and renowned international security strategist, doctor of international relations; and R. Dean Plowman, a former top U.S. government agricultural official, doctor of agricultural sciences.
In his address, Eccles, who was cited for his strong commitment of service to his profession and the community, discussed the topic: "The Individual and the Family - Traditional Values: Right or Wrong?"
He commended graduates, their families and professors of graduates and discussed reasons for being optimistic about technological and other advancements. But he also outlined his concerns about trends in society, saying that people, individually and collectively, "must determine if our nation's moral compass will return to true north. Is the task too great? Is there a manageable formula out there for success?" Eccles asked.
If there's a formula for success, he said, he believes it "rests with individuals taking on more responsibility for their own lives and returning to the traditional basic values of right and wrong."
The speaker said the America of the late 1900s - "the America that you as college graduates now enter as responsible, adult, voting citizens - I think must recapture a values-centered foundation."
He listed some of the "symptoms" or ills of present-day society, including drugs, teenage suicide and children having babies. But he said the "disease is a moral decay - a moral degradation - that blurs the meaning of `right' and `wrong' and condones, encourages, and, yes, even perpetuates individual irresponsibility."
He also said, "Honesty, integrity, and commitment to faith, family and community have little, if any, meaning in too many peoples' lives today . . . "
Eccles also stressed the importance of strong parental care of children, the value of meaningful employment, the American free enterprise system and urged a commitment to "individual obligations in a just society."
Despite national, individual and family problems, he said "we have many reasons to expect a bright future." He said that's because tens of millions of people are defending and showing that they believe in basic values that will help keep America strong.
In opening the commencement, Emert expressed appreciation for the efforts of students, their families, faculty members and USU alumni.
"I recognize your hard work, your desire for learning. I commend you for your dedication to the cause of educational attainment that will prepare you to make a living and also to enjoy a fuller, richer life," he said.
In his closing address, the USU president told graduates that their degree is "more than a vital professional credential needed in today's quickly evolving global marketplace. Your degree will serve you well professionally, but it also stands as a visible symbol of your ability to set a worthy goal and to achieve it - despite great challenges."
He urged graduates to "be contributing members of the local and global communities." He said, "Live boldly. Increase the breadth of your vision and the length of your reach. Some of the best advice I ever received was to choose to do those things that make your heart leap."