President Gary Ransdell urged the WKU Class of 2015 to “finish” as they gathered at Diddle Arena Tuesday evening for the annual Freshman Assembly.
“There are so many reasons why it is essential that you finish your undergraduate degree,” Dr. Ransdell said. “People with college degrees are healthier, more satisfied with their careers, remain more engaged in their communities, and have 75 percent greater earning power than those without college degrees.
“As a group this Class of 2015 is unified and connected like no other class before you,” Dr. Ransdell said. “You have already shown a unique ability to support each other, and you have redefined the way we communicate with you.” Almost 1,400 of the 3,475 first-time freshmen have joined the official WKU Class of 2015 Facebook community.
“Staying connected is clearly a priority for you, so I want to encourage you to continue what you have started and take it a step beyond social media – reach out to your fellow classmates who might need a helping hand or inspiration from time-to-time,” he said. “Encourage one another, and be accountable for your actions. Most importantly, help each other to stick it out and finish college. Don’t just be our largest class on Facebook, but be our largest graduating class ever.”
The new students gathered at the event to receive words of encouragement and advice from fellow WKU students Joe Hitchell, Bobby Rainey and Poorvie Patel. As the group affixed their official Class of 2015 lapel pins, Dr. Ransdell said, “I want to see all of you back in 2015 to receive your diploma and graduation pin.”
Joe Hitchell of Bowling Green, who graduated in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree at age 50, continued the call to finish by relaying his story of going straight to work from high school and the opportunities he missed.
“My goal tonight is to share with you what I have learned about the value of education with 20\20 hindsight through the many struggles and hurdles I have faced in my life as a result of lack of higher education,” Hitchell said. “Opportunity after opportunity has passed me by throughout my lifetime because I did not possess the required higher education. My hope is that you will learn from my mistakes.”
Hitchell said he was unable to advance into jobs he wanted because his lack of a higher education caused him to hit an “occupational ceiling.”
“This is exactly why this old fossil went back to college and eventually graduated with honors at age 50, because I learned the hard way, why my parents were encouraging me to go on to college and about the value of education,” he said.
Senior Bobby Rainey of Griffin, Ga., starting running back on the Hilltopper football team, said he learned the value of education from his mother, who put academics ahead of athletics.
“When I was growing up, she would not let me play sports unless I had my homework finished and kept my grades up,” Rainey said. “And she told all my coaches this as well. I loved to play sports, so because of her influence I learned at an early age how important school was.”
Rainey said his educational experience at WKU has helped him grow as a person and taught him skills that will last a lifetime.
“I have gained confidence working through the daily challenges that many courses present. I have learned to prepare, organize, plan and to analyze things in more detail than I thought possible,” he said.
And while he’s more widely know for his accomplishments on the football field, Rainey said, “my proudest moment as a WKU student will be when I receive my diploma this December.”
Poorvie Patel, a junior from Bowling Green, told the students that the value of education is incessant.
“An old Sanskrit scripture says that your education is the best source of wealth man can attain,” Patel said. “One cannot steal it, nor can it be divided among siblings. It cannot be stolen by the government or a king. It is the one source of wealth that the more you spend, the more you earn. Greater than money, jewels, car, and estate, education is and will remain your most valuable asset.”
The next four years will include stress and lack of sleep, she said. “But believe me, you are probably going to be a million times happier and satisfied knowing that you just graduated college and earned a degree, come 2015.”
According to preliminary data, the Class of 2015 includes 3,475 students representing 90 of Kentucky’s 120 counties. The largest group is from Warren County (475), followed by Jefferson County (440), Barren County (201) and Daviess County (110). Almost 16 percent of the class (543 students) is African American. There are 60 international students from 18 countries. Nearly 10 percent of the class (331) has joined the WKU Honors College and there are 78 new students in the Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science.