WVWC grads fete milestone

BUCKHANNON – Nearly 250 graduates received their diplomas at the John D. Rockefeller IV Physical Education Building at West Virginia Wesleyan College in Buckhannon on Saturday.

Faculty and staff led the 244 graduates into a packed gymnasium full of proud family and friends to celebrate the hard work and dedication of the students during their tenure at WVWC.

“We are the class of 2014 and we can and will achieve greatness,” said 2014 Class President Shalayna Lowther. “Wherever we go, whatever we accomplish, we will always have our home among the hills.”

Lowther also talked about the senior class gift, which is to raise donations of $20.14 for each graduate to go toward a student gathering and recreational space near the flower gardens on campus.

Lowther also presented the Distinguished Faculty Award to this year’s winner – Dr. Rich Calef.

Dr. Lewis C. Cantley Jr., esteemed cell biologist, biochemist and WVWC alum, gave the commencement speech, “How to Succeed in Life without Really Trying,” giving the graduates a few pieces of advice that he wished he had known when he was their age.

“First of all, if you want to solve a really difficult problem, try working on something completely unrelated to that problem,” Cantley said. “Sometimes, the direct and obvious solution does not work, so it’s important to think outside the box. … Avoid choosing a difficult career and don’t try too hard. Follow your talent, and you will probably find a career of it.”

“Try to be the stupidest person in your group by surrounding yourself with brilliant people,” Cantley continued. “Seek out environments where novel approaches to a problem are encouraged and supported.”

Cantley, who taught at Harvard Medical School and Tufts Medical School, is one of the leading scientists in the fight against cancer. Cantley led a lab with 30 post-doctorates, ultimately discovering a previously unknown enzyme in the human body, PI3-E-kinase, which provides a signaling pathway key to understanding cancer cells. Cantley has earned many awards for his research and has even gotten the attention of national media including a cover article in a 2013 issue of Time Magazine titled, “How to Cure Cancer.” He also has been featured on 60 Minutes in a piece called, “Is Sugar Toxic?”

WVWC President Pamela Balch awarded Cantley the institution’s highest honor, with an honorary doctorate degree.

Cantley wasn’t the only one awarded an honorary degree Saturday. The Rev. Frederick H. Leasure, another WVWC alumnus, received an honorary Doctor of Divinity Degree for his work with philanthropic fundraising.

The day marked an important landmark for many graduates, such as Tim Allen, of Romney, who entered WVWC as a freshman and successfully completed the institution’s five-year Master of Business Administration program.

“It’s relieving,” Allen said, when asked how he felt about graduating. “It’s a lot of work, but it s been worth it, but I’ve met a lot of great people along the way.”

Allen said he realizes he is in a situation that is not the norm for college graduates his age, as he already has a job lined up after with Advantage Sales and Marketing in Bentonville, Ark., where he will be a leadership development associate beginning in June.

“I’m thankful for the experiences I received while at Wesleyan,” Allen said. “It’s put me in a position where I am able to do what I want to do right out of the gate. I’m excited to get to work.”