2022 Convocation speaker Jesse Pope ’02 encourages Bobcats to seek success by following their passion

The 2022 Convocation ceremony held on Thursday, Aug. 18 brought all of Lees-McRae together. First-year students energized from their first week, seniors celebrating how far they have come and the exciting final year that lies ahead, and the faculty and staff that have helped all of them along the way gathered in Hayes Auditorium to celebrate the start of the new academic year.

After greetings from President Lee King and Provost Alyson Gill, leaders from each school of study introduced their programs, giving a summary of the opportunities their school provides for the students of Lees-McRae.

As she introduced the schools she oversees, Pam Vesely, dean of Education and Social Sciences and interim dean of Business and Management, posed a challenge to the students.

“As we begin this new year, I want to challenge each and every one of you to get involved, be engaged in this year, to discover and know your playing field, learn as much as you can about Lees-McRae College and our surrounding area,” Vesely said. “Chart your own course by building a learning mindset during your time here this year and let the people in this room help guide you through this process and support you.”

Support and guidance from those around you continued to be a theme throughout the ceremony as other deans introduced their own programs and illustrated the strong networks of support that make Lees-McRae the school it is.

This theme continued into the speech of keynote speaker Jesse Pope ’02, “The Road to Success is Through Your Passion.” In addition to being a Bobcat alumnus, Pope is the president and executive director of the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation, the nonprofit organization that runs Grandfather Mountain nature park.

As an alumnus himself, Pope was able to share stories with his fellow Bobcats about his own time at Lees-McRae, what they have to look forward to while on campus, and the ways his life has been impacted by the years he spent earning a degree in Biology with a naturalist concentration.

While he painted a picture of his time at Lees-McRae through stories of his research, fun with classmates, and strong relationships with mentors and professors, the underlying message of his speech was about everyone’s personal journey toward success.

He explained how he moved up the ranks at Grandfather Mountain, taking on more and more responsibility throughout the 20 years he has worked there as a back-country ranger, zoologist, and now the president and executive director.

Throughout all these advancements, Pope said he continued to pursue his passion and has been able to fall back upon the strong foundation and meaningful relationships he built while at Lees-McRae to help him succeed.

“You find success when you follow your passion and continue to match your interests with the needed skills to achieve your life’s meaning,” Pope said. “I had no idea how to do any of the things I’m responsible for today on my first day of work. I was successful because I learned how to learn here at Lees-McRae. I learned how to develop relationships, I learned how to create a team, I learned how to inspire and expand a culture, and to do more together.”

Pope’s speech gave an inspiring message about taking advantage of the opportunities Lees-McRae has to offer and using those resources to follow your passion. In her closing remarks, Gill sent new and returning Bobcats into the 202223 academic year with a final note of encouragement.

“You are resilient, you are brave, you know what you want, you self-advocate,” Gill said. “You are a generation of light, and it shines off you like the sun. It’s a privilege; it’s an honor, to serve as your provost and walk this path with you.”

Watch the entire Fall 2022 Convocation ceremony
By Maya JarrellAugust 22, 2022
AcademicsCampus Life