One of my favorite movies of the holiday season is “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The lead character, portrayed by Jimmy Stewart, faces life’s disappointments regarding fame and fortune, only to find in the end that life’s real treasure is best realized through your family and friends. One need not travel to the four corners of the earth or climb the proverbial ladder of ambition to find success, as the key to living a life of meaning and purpose may be waiting for you in your own home town.
This past weekend, Methodist University not only celebrated the accomplishments of 240 graduates at our 40th Winter Commencement, but also acknowledged the contributions of two individuals who have devoted a significant portion of their lives to Fayetteville and the University community, and we have all been the beneficiaries of their commitment and love. Gene Clayton has devoted the last 50 years as an employee of Methodist – the longest serving employee in the history of the university – including his present position of vice president for Business Affairs. How different the University would have been if this Stewart-like character had chosen to leave earlier in his career rather than invest in this place he and his wife, Pat, chose to call home. For his many contributions, the University awarded him an honorary degree and invited him to be the commencement speaker.
Ms. Terri Union has given new meaning to the phrase “engaged citizen.” Whether through her leadership as owner and president of Union Corrugating Company, chair of the Fayetteville Public Works Commission, as tireless advocate of the arts, or leadership on the MU Board of Trustees, she has left her indelible mark on our “home town.” How appropriate that she received the Methodist University Medallion in recognition of her record of community engagement.
What great examples these two individuals have provided to our graduates and all present for Commencement. As I have described on many occasions when referring to the MU Journey, one of the fundamental principles of a Methodist education and indeed to American democracy is civic engagement. We are so fortunate to have these two “signature people” in our midst who exemplify our “culture of excellence.”
At this time of sharing our gifts and blessings with others, we have so much to be thankful for. Yes, real life can even be more inspiring than the movies, especially when we have such colorful and giving characters who enrich our lives and remind us that it is so much more blessed to give than to receive.
From the Hancock household to yours, many blessings for this holiday season and the New Year.
In this season of remembering children and wishing them bright futures full of love, understanding, and growth, it is appropriate to feature Methodist University’s partnership with Partnership for Children of Cumberland County, Inc., led by President Eva Hansen. We have had numerous opportunities to work together in efforts to improve the quality life for families in our community.