It’s the end of May and of course that is the time that everyone starts to think about graduation. This is a time where dreams come true for students and teachers alike. For high school students, we see them leave away from a familiar place that for the most part they can’t wait to get behind them. For college students, we see new adults finally enter into the real world armed with knowledge, experiences, and hopefully a job. Tomorrow is the last day that I will have my current seniors in class before graduation. It is bitter sweet. I am sad to see this group go, but also very happy to see where they go from here. Graduation is one of those events that anyone dislikes attending unless he or she is involved. Graduations are long, the room is usually crowded and hot, there is always a speaker that talks too much, and you are really only there to see one person walk across a stage, which takes a total of 20 seconds. But this saturday I will attend a graduation. My graduation. One that has been literally years in the making.
I have loved Mississippi State University since I was able to think. Some of my first experiences as a child were attending MSU baseball games at Dudy Noble Field. My first stroller was maroon. My family drove a large maroon and grey van with a license plate that said, “MSU VAN.” The only cups that I drink out of at home are MSU stadium cups. I have one whole stack of maroon t-shirts in my chest of drawers. I have multiple cowbells. My dog owns a maroon jersey. Have I painted a picture yet?
But this love of MSU is way more than this last paragraph. My grandfather grew up at MSU, where his dad taught in the poultry department. He lived in Old Main, the large men’s dormitory on campus. My parents met at MSU at the Cobb Institute of Archeology. My sister met her husband there, while playing ultimate frisbee. My family has season football tickets next to our dear friends the Akins, who also go to church with us. Every year during Super Bulldog Weekend we meet up with our friends the Cliftons, who have been fellow Bulldog fans and friends for years.
MSU was a place where I bonded with my family over football tailgating, basketball victories, bowl game trips, and baseball afternoons. I have watched seasons of football where we could barely come out with a win. I have seen years where our basketball team could hardly be stopped. I have sat through pouring rain just to watch us lose the Egg Bowl. I have seen us keep that golden Egg only a week before I found out that I had cancer.
The funny part about this story is that I am not a MSU graduate. I have never taken a class on campus. I could not tell you where to go if you were a freshman and needed to know where all the chemistry classes were. But part of that will change Saturday. I started taking online classes for a Masters in Business in the summer of 2011. Now in Spring of 2014 I will graduate from the Distance MBA program at MSU with a 4.0 GPA. I took my capstone class through the midst of chemotherapy treatment. I cannot tell you how happy I am that this is finally happening. I am going to sit at graduation just like the rest of the graduates that actually took classes on campus, but I promise you, I will love that moment more.
A few things that I have learned besides finance, management, and marketing from MSU:
1. The rules of football, basketball, and baseball. Taught by: Joel Yelverton – my dad. Lessons were learned in the stands or at home watching away games. He taught me how to look beyond the game and see the intricacies of each sport, developing in me a true love of the game.
2. How to show great sportsmanship. Taught by: Cheryl Yelverton – my mom. Lessons were learned while watching my mom take wins with respect and loses with equal dignity. She has never yelled at an opposing fan and when those Arkansas fans pig sooey in her face, she just walks on by. That is a good fan. She congratulates the winners and does not flaunt the victories.
3. How to always be positive. Taught by: Terry Akin – my friend. Lessons were learned during terrible football, basketball, and baseball seasons. Terry is the son of our friends the Akins, who I mentioned earlier. He had down syndrome, but that surely never slowed him down. He was and still is the biggest MSU fan I have ever known. Every terrible season of football we would look down the row to Terry and he would just make a motion with his hands like shooting a basketball or swinging a bat. He was saying, “don’t worry we have another sport coming up, this season may be over and done, but just let’s wait and see what’s next.” We all miss him.
4. How to keep calm in the midst of a highly intense game. Taught by: Griffin Sullivan – my brother. Lessons were learned during overtime periods. Griffin joined our family in 2012 when he married my sister Becca. The Yelvertons are not known for watching a MSU sporting even quietly. Griffin joined our family and showed us how to remain calm, even when yelling at the television, field, Blue, etc. seems like the only answer.
5. That MSU is more than sports, it’s family. Taught by: Becca Yelverton – my sister. Lessons were learned watching my sister interact with her friends made during her years at MSU. Becca graduated from MSU in 2012, but the friends and connections she made there are still going on today. It was through her college experience that I saw MSU as a place where students grow not only in academics, but also in connecting with the people around you.
6. How to teach others to love MSU. Taught by: Carly Yelverton – my wife. Lessons were learned sharing with Carly the things I am sharing with you.
So basically this has been a love letter to Mississippi State, but it is also a big thought about education. Here is what I mean:
“Education is not about obscure facts and little test scores. Education is about the overall effect of years of slow absorption of concepts, philosophies, and approaches to problem solving. The whole process is so grand, all encompassing that it really can’t be threatened by the occasional late night no-hitter.” – George Feeny
So go out there and enjoy life. Have fun. And also learn a little bit too.
Journey Strong and Hail State!