Mr.Wayne W. Meisel, President of The Corella and Bertram F. Bonner Foundation, addressed graduates during Lees-McRae College’s Commencement Ceremony at 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 5 at the Williams Physical Education Center on Lees-McRae’s campus.
Before the 197 Lees-McRae graduates crossed the stage to receive their diplomas, Meisel reminded the graduates of their accomplishments not only in the classroom but also on the global scale.
“During your time here, you helped inspire and established the Global Community Center that has supported students to engage in the world, and to not only think globally, but to act globally as well. Out of that initiative students have made trips to Central American and India. And next week, beginning on Monday, two more groups of students will head to serve in developing countries where the school is forging strong ties. And more activity and more trips are being planned as Rev. [Kathy] Campbell puts forth a bold and courageous vision that every Lees-McRae College student has the expectations and opportunity to submerge themselves in a developing country.”
Mr. Meisel made a reference to the recent blockbuster The Pursuit of Happyness, encouraging graduates to enjoy the happiness that graduation brings.
“As I watched [The Pursuit of Happyness] in my living room two weeks ago, I immediately thought of how you might, should and can feel today, right here at this moment. As you take in the utter and complete and intense joy that comes with a life that finds itself at the summit - this part, this day, this time together, this event – let this be a moment of pure happiness. You have accomplished one of the most significant accomplishments anyone can claim. You have not only graduated from college, but you have defined your own legacy.”
After the conferral of the degrees, Lees-McRae President David W. Bushman gave the new alumni some final words of encouragement.
“You have been prepared for the future, but what you make of that future is up to you. I challenge you to dare to be all that you can be, to live a life of meaning and purpose, and I wish you Godspeed on that wonderful journey.”
Special recognition was given to Jeffrey Swicegood, recipient of the H.C. Evans Jr. Fidelity Award. The late Dr. H.C. Evans Jr., the ninth president of Lees-McRae, established the award, which recognizes academic excellence, campus citizenship, friendliness and service to the college. The recipient is selected by the graduates themselves, approved by the faculty and represents the highest ideals of the graduating class.
A history major, Swicegood was involved in numerous campus activities: Student Ambassador, Peer Educator, Student Athletic Advisory Committee, Amnesty International, Cross County, Track and Field, Approaching the Throne. His leadership has been shown as co-president of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and as a member of the Executive Committee of the Student Government Association and Order of the Tower.
“Dr. Evans, after whom this award is now named, used to refer to the Fidelity Award recipient as Mr. or Ms. Lees-McRae College. This expression has never been more true than it is of this year’s recipient,” Dr. Bushman said of Jeffrey Swicegood. Notable guests included Mrs. Jane Baucom Stephenson ’57, chair of the Lees-McRae College Board of Trustees, fellow board member Mr. Ed Bauman, and Mr. Parker Grubbs ’95, chair of the Lees-McRae College Board of Visitors.
The Corella and Bertram F. Bonner Foundation, of which Mr. Meisel is president, supports scholarships for low-income students at 22 schools in the Southeast and Midwest through the Bonner Scholars Program. In return, each scholarship recipient performs 600 hours of community service a year. Lees-McRae College is a participating institution in the Bonner Program.
Mr. Meisel graduated cum laude with a B.A. in government from Harvard University. He was a John Harvard Scholar for highest academic achievement and was a awarded a John Finley Travelling Fellowship. With this fellowship Mr. Meisel walked from Maine to Washington to champion student and campus involvement in community service.
As founder of the internationally known Campus Outreach Opportunity League (COOL), Mr. Meisel created a platform for students and graduates to lead, sustain and challenge their peers to serve others and bring about positive change.
Working with COOL from 1983 to 1989, he set the tone for youth-run/youth-led organizations. His efforts brought about coalitions between and among individuals, campuses, local communities and all levels of government that today are actively engaged in program conduct and policy implementation.
For his activism and leadership Mr. Meisel is the recipient of a Lyndhurst Career Prize, an award given out by the Lyndhurst Foundation of Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Mr. Meisel has served on the National Boards of Directors of the Independent Sector, COOL, and The New Grange School, a nationally acclaimed school for youths with learning disabilities. He was also a founding board member of the President’s Commission on National and Community Service and Teach for America.
He’s the author of two books, Building a Movement: Students in Community Service and On Your Mark, Get set, Go: From Student Ideas to Campus Action. He has also edited two books of quotes: Men About Men and Light One Candle.