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December 17, 2005

ULM Fall 2005 Graduates Receive Diplomas

The University of Louisiana at Monroe awarded diplomas to 405 students at the 2005 Fall Commencement Dec. 17 in Fant-Ewing Coliseum.

Bruce Hanks, former vice president of Strategic Issues at CenturyTel, Inc. and former ULM director of athletics, delivered the commencement address.

Hanks opened with a request that the graduates take this opportunity today to thank those individuals who helped them reach this point. He referred to them as now being a part of the great history, exceptional alumni and returned pride that marks ULM as an outstanding university.

“Represent ULM well and in the right way,” Hanks stated. “It’s your school. We also need you to be a proud part of the alumni and…help us to continue to build on what has already been accomplished.”

Hanks advised the graduates to decide what they see as success for themselves, and to define it greater than material possessions, as these things are byproducts. Hanks mentioned that all of his successes were not part of a great personal plan—they came about because he accepted the opportunities that came his way.

He suggested that the graduates be very aware of their own codes of ethics before those issues come up. This will make them stronger and more focused while avoiding pitfalls and problems. “You need to know what you are not willing to do to achieve success just as much as what you are willing to do,” he said.

He shared advice given to him by his mentors, counting among them his father and Clarke M. Williams at CenturyTel. They taught him that the Golden Rule is about as important as any business principle. Hanks further elaborated that, “Success is still about people and relationships.”

“Whatever you define as success and whatever code of ethics you define for yourself, be sure to enjoy the journey while focusing on your goals, because in the end the journey is all you have,” Hanks said. “Live from your heart and not just your mind. The heart is what makes us who we are.”

Though it’s not featured in most advertising, Hanks stipulated that serving and helping others is the best way to succeed, as is working together—that team is the one that wins. He said that the graduates should try to leave each place of employment better than when they came in, to work in a place where they love what they do and have passion for it. To be a great leader, they should inspire others by their example and take action. Communication is one of the great keys.

Hanks commented that learning is a lifelong process and passed on advice to the graduates not commonly heard from commencement speakers—that they would fail and get knocked down. That is acceptable. What is not acceptable is staying down.

He quoted the Battle of Life, attributed to Theodore Roosevelt, hoping that the graduates took from it the lesson that they should not be afraid to take risks simply because they might fail—greatness comes to those who make the attempt. “’The credit belongs to the man…who at the best knows, in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who have tasted neither victory nor defeat.’”

Hanks then related an inspiring story about a current graduate student and ULM player who seemed to share this philosophy: Joey Trappey. Trappey was not invited to play football at other universities he approached, due to his size and slower speed. When he called ULM, he was encouraged to try out. Over the past four and a half years, he has gone from being a wide receiver, where he was redshirted or did not play at all, to being one of the five team captains and the starting tight end for the ULM Indians. Hanks credited Trappey as being one of the great turnaround stories in college football—all because he constantly strove to improve and would not give up.

This was the effort Hanks hoped that the graduates would continue to make as alumni. He finished his remarks the way he began, with a call for them to share and give back what they could, whether it be with money, time or talent.

“The experience of being a student of this fine university will stay with you for your life,” Hanks said. “I would expect that like me, each of you has made some good friends, acquired a great deal of knowledge, learned about effort and hard work, learned that you get out of something what you put into it, and will carry memories for a lifetime.”

Hanks has an extensive history with the Fortune 500 company, CenturyTel, Inc., having served in various executive officer positions in addition to being a current member of the Board of Directors. He played a key role in building one of Ouachita Parish's—and the nation's—most successful companies. Hanks received both his bachelor's degree in accounting and master’s degree in business administration from ULM.

His tenure at ULM was marked by repeated successes, including setting the record for football season tickets sold and increasing athletic department annual revenues by over one million dollars. Hanks also served ULM as former president of the ULM Foundation, and as past president of the ULM Alumni Association.

Several honor graduates were recognized during the ceremonies.
They are designated as summa cum laude (3.900-4.000),
magna cum laude (3.750-3.899) and cum laude (3.500-3.749).

Top graduate for the Fall 2005 graduating class was Tassa Jeannice Avara, an elementary education major from Walker, LA. She achieved a 3.92 grade point average. Avara is the daughter of Fran and Edna Tibbitt.

Army ROTC ULM Student Cadet Crystal Ann Huff was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army on Dec. 17 at 9:30 a.m. at the ULM Library, 7th Floor.

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