October 24 in Orange Beach, Ala., was a beautiful, sunny day filled with the energy and electricity of more than 3,000 gathered to celebrate a supreme achievement: graduation!
By all accounts, CSU graduates and their families and friends thoroughly enjoyed the 2014 CSU commencement ceremonies held at the Orange Beach Event Center. A highlight of the day for many was hearing and meeting renowned marine, Lt. Col. Oliver North.
North, the keynote speaker, spoke about the U.S. military, leadership, giving thanks and the meaning of being a hero. In an interview later, he commented on distance education and what it means to adult learners.
“Online education is uniquely American. It’s a golden opportunity for men and women already in the workforce, those with family responsibilities and individuals who know what they want to do in an established field or endeavor,” said North. “Students can choose academic courses to fit their personal gifts and talents and the skill-sets required for a specific occupation or business. Every student can tailor an academic workload to fit their time available. These factors are particularly important for students who already have a a job, a family or other responsibilities that would make residential or on-campus education impossible.”
To those thinking about pursuing an online degree, he offered these words: “As they say in the commercials for Nike Sports: “Just do it!” One of the ‘facts of life’ in the modern American economy is those who pursue higher education get ahead. Those who ‘continue learning’ improve their prospects for better jobs –and promotions in the jobs they have. Many occupations in the private and public sectors of our economy require additional education in order be promoted. Whether a person is seeking re-entry in the workforce, a career change or advancement in an ongoing vocation, further education is one of the best decisions a person can make.”
“Being an active-duty military member, it was great to hear Oliver North speak. It was a very nice way to cap off an exciting day,” said graduate Mark McLean, an Air Force officer who crossed the stage for his bachelor’s degree in organizational leadership.
Apolonia Hansen, who received her bachelor’s degree in occupational safety and health, echoed McLean.
“The speakers were great and the ceremony was very exciting. Everything was well-organized and I really had a great time,” said Hansen of Colorado. Other speakers included CSU President Robert Mayes, CSU Senior Vice President Chantell Cooley, Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon, Alabama Sen. Tripp Pittman and U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne.
McLean, like Hansen and many other graduates, traveled a great distance to attend the graduation.
“My wife had talked and we really thought that even though I had done the [work,] this was a family accomplishment,” said McLean, who lives in Maryland. “They sacrificed those times I could not share watching movies or going somewhere with them because of homework. So, we felt it was important to come here to celebrate as a family.”
The new CSU Knight mascot, who was taking name suggestions, also showed up at graduation and posed with graduates and families for photos. What will his name be? Stay tuned!