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May 7, 2012

DWU graduates urged to show courage

By ROSS DOLAN, The Daily Republic

The expression “hail and farewell” took on added meaning for the 161 Dakota Wesleyan University graduates who officially entered the world of work following Saturday commencement exercises at the Corn Palace.

The new grads — DWU’s 127th graduating class — were greeted with golf ball-sized hailstones as they attended baccalaureate services Saturday morning at the Sherman Center. While the hail damage to student vehicles will probably add a few extra dollars to the cost of schooling, it didn’t postpone the ceremonies, where keynote speaker Daniel Duffy exhorted the graduates to have courage.

Duffy, 52, a 1983 DWU graduate, is a partner in the Rapid City law firm of Bangs, McCullen, Butler, Foye and Simmons, and a 1999 inductee to the DWU Athletic Hall of Fame in 1999. While at DWU he was a two-time Academic All-America basketball player.

Duffy later briefly played professional basketball in Limerick, Ireland. He was a 1990 graduate of the University of South Dakota School of Law.

Duffy was the recipient of the Young Alumnus of the Year award in 1996 and has served on the college’s board of trustees.

Of the many virtues required of a successful life, Duffy said, bravery is the greatest. “Courage makes all other virtues possible,” he said.

Duffy reflected on the personal courage of ancestors who left their Irish homeland and emigrated first to New York and later to Pierre.

“Challenging times are what will make you what you are to become,” he said.

Duffy challenged grads to develop a sense of gratitude for the leg up they’ve been given by simply being born in America, where he said “the glass today is more than half-full,” and told them not to underestimate the value of the degree they earned.

It is courage, however, that will make the difference, he said, outlining four major points.

  • Have courage to conquer your fears. Don’t avoid or run from confrontation and don’t underestimate the power you have to succeed.
  • Have courage to be passionate about your career choice and work.
  • Have courage to work. “There is no substitute for working hard for what you want,” he said.
  • Have the courage to serve others for true happiness. Those who learn to look beyond themselves, Duffy said, will not help others but find themselves.

“Have the courage to live al full and complete life and have the courage to change course when necessary. Don’t do things half-way and don’t make excuses, and have the courage to invest yourself fully and completely.”
Duffy urged students not to neglect their spiritual development.

“You have a place inside you only God can fill,” he said, explaining that success will be illusory without acknowledgement of God’s grace.

He also reflected on the blessings of love and family life.

“When you find those things in your life you are truly successful,” he said.

Duffy acknowledged the work of DWU grads Nicole Anderson, Aaron Rolen, Justin Mitchell and Mike Lynch, who in the best DWU traditions are living lives of courage and service, he said.

DWU President Bob Duffett also conferred an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters degree of Lou Ora Busk Houk, a member of the DWU Class of 1951.

Houk was the former obstetrics supervisor and instructor at the Mitchell Methodist School of Nursing from 1952 to 1960; and later from 1979 to her retirement in 1989. Her first husband Robert Busk died in 1985 and she then married popular DWU biology teacher Bill Houk. The couple traveled extensively in retirement performing the duties of unofficial DWU ambassadors. Bill Houk died in 2006.

Lou Ora Busk Houk has remained active in alumni affairs, served on community and church boards and was named “2010 Fan of the Year” by the DWU Tigers basketball team.

In other items Saturday, veteran English professor Joe Ditta was presented the Clarke Award for Teaching Excellence by John and LuAnn Clarke. Ditta, clearly overcome by a standing ovation, expressed his gratitude and said his only regret is that this would be his last graduation ceremony as a DWU professor. For many grads, finding work was foremost in mind.

Brit Jones, of Rapid City, who graduated with a degree in criminal justice, stood on a folding chair to display his diploma to classmates. Jones said he won’t go into law enforcement right away. Instead, said Jones, he’s off to the North Dakota oil rigs “for some adventure and to pay off my student loans.”

John Greicar, who received a master’s degree in educational policy and administration, has been working as a graduate assistant with the DWU baseball team. He said he’s not sure what his future will bring.

“I’m looking for a job, but money or not, I’d like to stick around,” Greicar said. “We have a great team coming back next year.”

He called his mentorship under Tigers baseball coach Steve Gust, “a privilege.”

Senior Class President Mario Palencia, from Los Angeles, drew laughs from classmates as he recounted his first winter in South Dakota. “But we made it,” he told them.

Afterwards Palencia posed briefly for a photo outside the Corn Place with his younger brother, Marc Anthony, and his mother Manuela Corado, a naturalized U.S. citizen originally from Guatemala.

Palencia will be attending the University of Wyoming Law School this fall.


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Last updated: 5/17/12