By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
MOLINE, Ill. — Connecting the dots. “All stories begin with ‘Once upon a time’ and end with ‘happily ever after,’” Jim Collins began his commencement speech to the St. Ambrose University Class of 2016. “It’s the dots in between that are most important.”
Collins, a 1969 alumnus of St. Ambrose, which is based in Davenport, spoke to graduates during the commencement ceremony May 14 at the iWireless Center in Moline, Ill. Collins said when he started at St. Ambrose College in 1964 the student body was all male. His four years extended into five years. “I had no idea I would be bestowed with this honor over 45 years later. It is very humbling.”
He has served various roles assisting the university, including as a member of the board of trustees.
“This is your once upon a time,” Collins told the students. “But you will learn that there are stresses, challenges and disappointments. But those help us to learn and flourish into another once upon a time.”
Collins sang “Oh What a Beautiful Morning,” by Rogers and Hammerstein. The crowd cheered when he finished.
Successes, Collins observed, come from our responses. “They don’t just happen.” He also pointed out that challenges offer opportunities. “How will you respond? … There is a village of support out there.” They are your family, friends, parish and more.
When Collins graduated from St. Ambrose, he planned to go into social work or teaching. He ended up working at Deere & Co. with more than 40 years of service. “How did that happen? That is a story for another day.” But he pointed out that he used what he learned about social work by serving in many programs to help others. On the education side he was a teacher in the classroom for Junior Achievement’s Free Enterprise Program.
Going back to his observation about a village of support, he said “family” may not always be biological relatives. “But they are part of the village.” They help instill faith and values and work to help you seek your full potential.
“Life is about give and take,” Collins said. The best gift to friends is loyalty; to enemies, forgiveness; to your boss, service; to parents, gratitude; and to God, your life he has given for you.
“Thank you for your once up a time and go Bees!”
During the ceremony, Collins and Tom Laughlin (’72) and Caren Bakrow Laughlin (’76) received honorary degrees presented by St. Ambrose University President Sister Joan Lescinski, CSJ, and Bishop Martin Amos, chair of the board of trustees.
A total of 689 degrees — 501 bachelor’s degrees, 187 master’s degrees and one doctoral degree — were conferred during the ceremony.