Perseverance Emerges as the Theme of the MacDill Center Commencement

June 14, 2010

Perseverance_EmergesStudents who earn their bachelor’s degrees in adulthood, once they have jobs and families, typically have lots of stories about balancing responsibilities and overcoming unforeseen problems.

A grateful Sturgis Griffin III, the designated student speaker for the MacDill Center Commencement, shared some of his stories Saturday. Griffin, like many adult students, initially had trepidation about enrolling in college. After high school, he had gone directly into the United States Air Force for 22 years, and had no specific college experience.

He started thinking about higher education later, when he was a working adult, and a husband and father who expected grades from his children. One day one of his children asked: “What kind of grades did you get when you were in school? Don’t lie to me, because I’ll ask Granny.”

Griffin decided to set an example by returning to school at Saint Leo University. He started with just one class, to get his bearings. Then he continued, with the constant support and encouragement of his wife Leslie.

Then came an onset of fatigue, and shortness of breath. Doctors found a problem with a heart valve and he and his wife had to travel out of state for care. So, Griffin related Saturday from the commencement stage, “a year ago I was on an operating table waiting to have open heart surgery.”

The surgery had to be done then, when Griffin had only six more classes to complete to obtain his Saint Leo degree. As he recuperated, he recalled that his wife Leslie told him: “Don’t use this as an excuse not to finish.” And Saint Leo’s MacDill Center staff and faculty worked with Griffin to help pick up where he had left off. Other family members and friends continued their encouragement.

Saturday, Griffin was awarded the Bachelor of Science in computer information systems magna cum laude, an accomplishment he wanted to share with all those who were supportive during his journey.

As it happened, Griffin’s speech fit well with the commencement address delivered by USAF Col. Lawrence M. Martin Jr., Commander of the 6th Air Mobility Wing at MacDill Air Force Base.

The Commander urged the graduates to continue to uphold the values of perseverance, pride, and excellence. He cited several figures from American history who changed the nation for the better because they did not give up when they faced early or continued failures. His list included Ulysses S. Grant, Thomas Edison, Rosa Parks, and George Washington.

About 150 students received degrees at the ceremony, which was held at Saint Lawrence Catholic Church in Tampa.