Mark Horn of Fort Smith, vice chancellor for university relations at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith, gave UAFS grads pointed advice about their life after college during a retrospective commencement address at the fall graduation ceremony Dec. 11.
Horn, who has announced he will retire at the end of the academic year, advised the graduates assembled at the Stubblefield Center to be active in life rather than just “sitting there,” reciting an anecdote about an out-of-work truck driver named Larry Walters who tied over 40 weather balloons to a lawn chair in his backyard and floated into the sky.
“He shot up about 1,000 feet per minute and was soon at 16,000 feet and drifting into the restricted air space of LAX. Larry’s goal was to drift across the desert and land in the Rocky Mountains, but he got cold and started shooting the balloons out with a pellet gun to start descending,” Horn said. “He eventually landed unhurt in Long Beach. When law enforcement officials got to him and asked him what he was thinking, Larry’s answer was classic: ‘I just couldn’t sit there!’”
“You’re walking out of here tonight with a degree,” he continued. “That’s great, but are you just going to sit there? Let me use this question to challenge you, not necessarily to fly a lawn chair through a restricted airspace, but to use all your talents and abilities and all your creativity and energy to find avenues of service and to improve yourself and those around you.”
Horn challenged students to continue learning, to be open-minded during their life journeys, to build their character and to preserve friendships, among other advice.
“Learning is a continual process, and learning and work-related activities are no longer separate,” he said. “The know-how and know-what of classroom learning is being supplemented with know-where. Your ability to learn what you need for tomorrow is more important than what you know today. So let me ask you: are you just going to sit there, or are you going to keep on learning?”
He closed by urging the students to make the most of their education.
“Graduates, don’t get comfortable in that lawn chair of yours. When this evening draws to a close and you have had a few days to savor being finished, don’t just sit there. Get after it,” he said. “Keep learning, think big, be someone and get involved. Our community, state and nation need you, so give back your time and talent and produce a return on your education investment.”
The commencement ceremony also included the oath of office for two UAFS students commissioned as second lieutenants in the U.S. Army – 2nd Lt. Winston Cox and 2nd Lt. Tuan Pham, both of Fort Smith. The students have been part of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) at UAFS. Administering the oath was Maj. Kevin Cox of Fort Smith, professor of military science at UAFS.
Degrees and certificates for those completing graduation requirements during the second summer term and the fall semester were awarded during commencement exercises. Fall candidates for graduation represented 234 bachelor’s degrees, 155 associate degrees and 29 technical certificates. Summer II graduates included 57 receiving bachelor’s degrees, 53 receiving associate degrees and 22 receiving technical certificates.