June 10, 2017
Less than a month ago, 269 members of the Class of 2017 left to put their Houghton education to the test in the ‘real world.’ While in this moment many of the graduates are no doubt feeling the usual pain of any major life transition, I am confident that their Houghton education will stand the test. My confidence is borne not only from my own experience but also from the lives of hundreds of graduates with whom I have spoken since coming to Houghton. In particular, four conversations this spring speak powerfully to this point. The conversations represent graduates from different parts of the country and different eras. All four are currently in the business world, but only one was a business major at Houghton.
Here is some of what they said about their Houghton education:
- “It taught me the ‘power of words.’”
- “I learned to speak and write and to analyze information.”
- “In a world of specialists, I realized the value of being a generalist.”
- “I learned to be bold.”
- “I learned how to tackle a research problem.
- “I realized that, as a result of my Houghton education, I knew how to find out about anything.”
- “My friends at Houghton turned out to be my most valuable professional, as well as personal, network. Work those networks!” (Two of these alumni, both history majors, have founded their own successful high tech company, after obtaining experience in teaching and the corporate world. They clearly demonstrate the flexibility and the transferability of the tools of a Houghton education.)
When asked about advice they would give to recent graduates, they said the following:
- “Get a job. Don’t wait for the perfect job. Just get a job, and see what you can learn. Look for an area where your company has a problem, and be part of the solution.”
- “Remember that the person you are today is not the person you will be in twenty years.”
- “Choose the right battles to fight. Don’t fight every one that comes along.”
- “Above all, don’t be afraid to fail. Learn all you can from each failure and move on.”
At this spring’s baccalaureate service, Dr. Richard Eckley spoke about graduation as the “diaspora” or the scattering of the Class of 2017. They have now taken their place among the thousands of Houghton graduates spread throughout every state in the U.S. and in more than 60 countries of the world. While they may be thinking primarily about getting a job and establishing themselves economically, they will soon become part of the great company of Highlanders who bring with them not only the ability to do good work, but also the increasingly rare capacities to carry on difficult conversations with grace, to build sound and flourishing communities, to use their gifts for the good of others and not only for themselves, and to live today in light of eternal values.
Wherever you are in your journey as a Houghton alumnus or friend of the college, may your day be filled with a sense of God’s grace, peace, and hope.
Shirley A. Mullen, Class of 1976