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Southeast confers 641 degrees at winter commencement
Thomas Hendrick started his commencement speech Saturday with a question.
How did he go from a Southeast Missouri State University graduate all those years ago to the world-traveling president of TCH Partners, a privately held firm valued at more than $3 billion with more than 100 resort projects all over the globe?
Along the way, Hendrick told a packed Show Me Center and 641 graduating students, he learned three valuable lessons.
He could compete. He overcame, and mined opportunity from, adversity. And he gave back.
Students will be able to compete in the marketplace, Hendrick said, despite a tough economic climate. He cited a recent Wall Street Journal article that ranked universities in terms of corporate recruitment. Eight of those were state universities, like Southeast, and only one was an Ivy League school, meaning students at Southeast will be sought after by the business world.
"If I can do it, you can do it," Hendrick said.
Saturday's commencement ceremony culminated in 563 undergraduates and 78 graduate students getting their degrees.
University officials say the number of candidates for graduation continues to rise slightly with each commencement ceremony. Southeast's total enrollment this semester, as of the census report four weeks into the term, climbed to 11,112 students, up from 9,971 during fall semester 2009.
On Saturday morning, 118 undergraduates, 27 students receiving master's degrees and three students earning specialist degrees were recognized at an honors convocation. Among those honored, 15 graduated summa cum laude, 22 graduated magna cum laude and 73 graduated cum laude. This year's commencement included seven undergraduates with perfect 4.0 GPAs.
But after college life, adversity may come, Hendrick warned, whether it be career setbacks, health worries or family crises. He suggested that students keep in mind that opportunities can come from adversity. At one point in his life, an economic slowdown left him unemployed for eight months, which he said felt like eight years. But he was persistent and didn't give up, he said. Eventually, he got a good job.
"Don't let adversity kill your dream," he said.
And to keep a well-balanced life, Hendrick said, students should remember to give back.
"To those who are to receive, much is expected," he said, paraphrasing Luke 12:48.
Make sure to keep family relationships strong and not work explicitly for financial gain, Hendrick said. He encouraged the students to do charity work, citing his own church work and his work with getting drinkable water into poor homes in Mexico.
"You don't have to just give money," Hendrick said. "You can give time and effort, which is valuable."
Also during the ceremony, Jeremy Barnes was presented with the university's Pride Award. Barnes is a professor of health, human performance and recreation. The Provost's Research, Instruction and Development for Excellence Award recognizes a faculty member who has demonstrated excellence as a teacher, an extraordinary level of scholarship and service and whose overall accomplishments are especially noteworthy.
Barnes was selected by the Council of Deans after nominations were solicited from the university's colleges and schools. This is the 15th year Southeast has presented the Pride Award.
Staff writer M.D. Kittle contributed to this report.
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