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Contact: Lynn Stewart, Centenary News Service, 318-869-5120
Photos of 2004 President's Convocation

Remarks from Rayne Martin, Class of 1996, at 2004 President's Convocation
Aug. 31, 2004 in Brown Memorial Chapel
Centenary College

"First of all, I would like to congratulate all of the new and graduating Centenary students.

"Each of you is special and destined to accomplish wonderful things. I know this because I know that during your time at Centenary you will learn some lessons that will support you on a successful life journey.

"It is here at Centenary that I learned the most influential lessons in my own life. It was through my Centenary education that I learned how to learn, how to think for myself, how to lead a team and how to intelligently articulate my views.

"When I was asked to speak to you today, I was extremely honored. Since graduating from Centenary, I have had some profound and amazing opportunities that I know I would not have understood or appreciated fully had it not been for the incredible liberal arts education that I received here.

"I think that the best things that I can share with you this morning are these lessons that I learned and have carried with me throughout my life. To make these lessons interesting I have peppered them with some of my own personal and sometimes embarrassing Centenary stories.

"One lesson that I learned at Centenary is that we all have the capacity to achieve what we want in life. All it takes is the ability to believe in ourselves and to visualize our own success.

"My lesson on this topic began as soon as I was accepted into Centenary. I am from a very small town in Louisiana called Castor, population 200.

"During my junior year of high school, I decided to apply for Centenary College. I remember how excited I was when I was accepted. I could not wait to share the news with my guidance counselor. I lost my excitement when her response was one of disbelief and concern. She told me that she did not think that I would be a successful Centenary student. According to her, I was not intellectually or financially capable of achieving at Centenary.

"Fearful that I would not succeed, I became obsessed with schoolwork and I quickly became infamous for my study habits. For instance, I would rewrite my biology class notes in fine print on a poster board, a technique which, though it worked for me, I do not advise.I would carry the poster board around campus and my friends would have to sit a few seats from me in the cafeteria to make room for it.

"Quirky study habits aside, I worked very hard and at the end of my second semester, I learned that I was not going to earn an A in any subject; instead, I was going to earn straight B’s.

"Upon learning this, I ran to Dr. Shelburne’s office crying. Dr. Shelburne was my advisor and English professor whose constant faith in my ability has had a profound impact on my life. That day, when I came to him so upset, I finally managed to tell him what was wrong. In his infinite wisdom he explained that there are worse things in life then not getting all A’s. He proceeded to let me know that I can be as successful as I want in life and the grades that I receive in school are not going to determine this.

"In that moment, I began to learn that I can achieve anything that I want and that I can not let one success indicator define my own belief in myself. I believe now that the most important factor in one’s success is the ability visualize that success.

"To my staff, I often quote Thomas Edison, “If we all did the things that we are capable of, we would astound ourselves.”

"Another important lesson I learned at Centenary is that life is about serving others and that it is important to respect the value that each individual brings to this earth.

"When I was at Centenary, students were required to spend time volunteering in a program of their choosing. I decided to tutor a high school student. My tutor and I developed such a wonderful relationship that I remained her tutor throughout my Centenary tenure.

"Centenary also afforded me the opportunity to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity and the Lighthouse, a program that provides after-school activities for low-income children in Shreveport.

"I learned how much you will discover about yourself if you are open to assisting others. I developed such a strong sense of civic duty while at Centenary and, as a result, I have chosen to spend my career supporting those less fortunate than myself.

"That said please don’t think that I believe that everyone here must spend their life working in a non-profit or a government agency. Simply extending a hand to a friend in need or sharing an effective study habit with a struggling student is all that it can take to make a positive difference in the world.

"It is amazing how many positive things you can do for others in one day’s time.

"My final important lesson is that the friendships that you make here will support you throughout your life.

"The very first day that I moved into Centenary, I was putting the final touches on the décor in my new room when my mother called me from the Student Union Building. (Now, there is something that you should know about my mother—she will talk to anyone, anywhere.)

"Apparently, while she was walking around campus, she met another mother whose son was also starting Centenary. Through sharing stories about their children they decided that we had a lot in common and they arranged for us to meet in the Student Union.

" Now I am sure you can imagine how incredibly embarrassing that situation was—your mother arranging friendships for you on your first day of college.

"Embarrassed as I was, I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly Erich Nunn and I connected. We became instant friends. Throughout our four years at Centenary, we supported each other academically and personally. Today, I still consider him one of my best friends.

"I can say the same about all of my Centenary friendships. There is something inexplicably bonding about the Centenary experience. I have lived in three major cities in the last seven years. In each city, I have managed to connect with the other Centenary graduates in the area, sometimes even accidentally. When this happens words do not need to be spoken. There is an understanding that just brings us together.

"In conclusion, I would like to leave you with a quote from Thomas Ehrich that I believe sums up my lessons perfectly: “A college education should equip one to entertain three things, a friend, an idea and oneself.”

"I guarantee that when you leave here, you will see the world as one vast educational opportunity of which Centenary has given you the tools to explore."

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