Noah Welte, Director of Retention & Student Success and Thomas More College alumnus (’05), delivered the Convocation Address.
On behalf of the most Reverend Bishop Foys, the Board of Trustees, President Armstrong, Dr. Wolper, Thomas More College faculty and staff…
It is my distinct honor and privilege to say…
Class of 2018, welcome to Thomas More College!
I am humbled to be speaking to you today. We are excited to have you here.
Parents, family, friends, thank you for your love, support, and guidance of your sons and daughters. They did it, you did it. Congratulations! Take a good look at them, they are now college students. Students, go ahead and give your families and friends a round of applause.
I am fortunate to have met several of you throughout the admissions process, and have had a chance to talk with a few more of you this past week. With each conversation, I have been more and more impressed with the quality of students and individuals in this class. You are a large class in number, which we are all excited about, but you are also a class of many talents and accomplishments poised to take thomas more college to new heights in the classroom, on the field, and in the community.
So…I had this grand idea that since I had you all together and with classes starting on wednesday, I would take some of the pressure off and give you all your first college assignment.
However, I realized that it might take more time than I have allotted for you to really get to your answer, and you might want to enjoy these final two days of your summer break.
Instead, I am going to offer you a question to reflect on and think about for the remainder of my time up here.
“How do you define success?” (I will share my answer with you in a moment.)
First, if you would indulge me, I would like to tell you a story I heard from a couple of my mentors, Joshua Medcalf and Jamie Gilbert. It’s an adaptation of a famous essay, Acres of diamonds, written by Russell H. Conwell.
So there’s this farmer that’s out in Africa. He’s working his farm, and it is totally dilapidated. It’s dry, it’s rocky, it’s hard. And he’s breaking his back day in and day out trying to live off this land. He keeps hearing these stories about people all across Africa, who are finding diamonds and creating this “easy wealth.”
The more he starts to look at all the hard work that he’s put in and the meager return he’s getting from the work, the more he hears these stories of easy wealth, he starts thinking to himself, “Maybe I should try something else? Maybe the grass is greener somewhere else?”
So he goes ahead and sells his farm. He goes out in search of diamonds. For years, he pours all his time and resources into trying to find these diamonds. But, a few years later, he’s out of money, he’s out of energy, he’s out of focus. He gives up. He throws himself in the river, and he drowns.
Now, meanwhile, he had sold the farm to another guy. This guy is out strolling around his farm one day. He sees a peculiar looking rock sitting next to the river that runs through his land. He says, “I’ve never seen something like this before,” and he goes and gets it checked out.
The guy who is looking at it, looks at the farmer, and says, “Do you realize what you have?!?” The farmer is like, “No.” The guy says, “You have a diamond in a rough state!” The farmer is like, “Really?!?” “Yeah, this isn’t just a diamond in its rough state. It’s the biggest diamond I have ever seen!”
The farmer was overjoyed. He ran back to the farm and started looking all over his land. Because he knew what a diamond in its rough state finally looked like, he realized that he had diamonds all over his farm!!! Not only that, what he found out years later is that he was sitting on the biggest diamond mine in Africa!
As I look out at you, the class of 2018, I see a group of diamonds in their rough state.
But, a diamond in its rough state is still just some carbon. So let’s talk for a second about how that carbon becomes a diamond.
The recipe is as follows:
- Dig deep into the earth (approximately 100 miles down) and bury some carbon – like the stuff in your No. 2 pencils.
- Expose to heat at a significantly high temperature (about 2200 degrees fahrenheit).
- Apply an incredible amount of pressure (725,000 pounds per square inch).
- Cool it down near the earth’s surface.
So, let me break each of these steps down, and talk about what they mean for you.
– Dig deep: when I started college, I was a quiet and shy. I was the little kid from small town, Maysville, Kentucky. I knew that I loved baseball and I wanted to change the world.
- Just like me, you are arriving at college eager to tackle the next part of your life. You are tossed into the unknown. Perhaps, like me, away from home for the first real time in your life. There are new freedoms that you may have also never experienced.
- Each of you has only begun to scratch the surface of who you are.
- College is a genuine opportunity for you to peel back the layers and really discover some things about yourself. A chance to figure out who you are and what you want to become.
- I challenge you to spend time in that process. Use your college experience to find out what you like and don’t like. Use it to find out more about yourself and also how you can serve others.
– Exposure: the other day I was driving around and I heard an interview on the radio with NFL running back, Rashad Jennings. He was asked a question about what things he enjoyed outside of football. In his answer, he mentioned how he discovered an enjoyment for learning while he was in college. Every semester he went on a quest to learn something new. His first semester, he learned how to write with his left hand. The next semester, he picked up a deck of cards learning every magic trick known to man. He also learned how to play the guitar in another semester.
- President Armstrong often talks about a book by Chris Lowney called Heroic Leadership. He cites a phrase that highlights my second challenge to you.
- Today’s leaders need to be comfortable being uncomfortable. (when you talk about learning to write with your opposite hand, that would be pretty uncomfortable at first.)
- Challenge yourself to become something more than what you already are. It starts with exposing yourself to new ideas, new viewpoints, new philosophies, new cultural experiences, new courses, new friendships.
- Think outside the box, get creative. Do something you have never tried before, you just might like it.
– Apply pressure: pressure makes diamonds. Well, I can assure you of one thing. In your time at Thomas More College, you will feel pressure.
- There will be pressure to perform well in the classroom. Your professors will hold your work to high standards, and as you progress, the rigors of your course work will present additional demands of your time.
- There will be pressure for some of you to perform well on the field. Your teammates and coaches will be looking to you to work hard, compete, and as you progress, lead others to previously unattainable heights.
- There will be days where the weight of the world feels like it is all on your shoulders. Trust me, I had those days, and sometimes, still have those days.
- But my third challenge to you is this: embrace the pressure.
- Welcome it. Walk right towards it. Realize that is what is helping you grow and mature into a diamond.
– Cool down: through all of this process, a diamond is not a diamond as we know it, until it has calmed down and cooled off.
- So, will you have to dig deep and discover some things about yourself? Yes.
- Will you have to expose yourself to uncomfortable things? Most likely.
- And will there be pressure placed upon you? Most definitely.
- My final challenge is this: through it all, stay cool and remain calm.
It goes without saying that my passion for thomas more college runs deep. The education that I received here set me up for success in all facets of my life. It helped me through law school, it has proven beneficial in my coaching, and it has guided me every day in every position i have ever held.
I love this school so much that I returned here to work because I believe in the mission – equipping our students to engage the world with integrity for their whole life. I believe in the vision. I believe in our students. The work we do here really does transform lives so that we can transform the world.
Which brings me back to the question I posed to you. “How do you define success?”
Success to me is this: The sum total of bringing my best every day in order to be the best version of myself that I can possibly be.
Too often, in life, we are like that first farmer from my story. We think other people in life have it better than us. We start thinking that the grass is always greener somewhere else.
Let me tell you this: the grass is not greener on the other side. The grass is greener where you water it.
You have the resources available to you. You have the opportunities available to you. You are looking right now at someone who will do anything and everything in his power to make sure all of those resources and opportunities are available to you.
Become resourceful. Do not be too afraid or too proud to ask for help. Start looking at ways to say, “I am going to do the best I can with what i have where I am.” Start looking for and identifying diamonds in their rough state.
Every day I am committed to bringing my passion and energy for your success. Every day I am committed to helping you reach your expectations and achieve your dreams.
My dream is to do whatever I can to help you achieve yours. My dream is to help you dig deep, to encourage you to expose yourself to new things, to guide you when you feel the pressure, and to be there every step of the way helping you stay cool and remain calm.
Class of 2018, right now, you are diamonds in a rough state. My dream is to watch and help each of you as you grow into diamonds.
Noah Welte is the Director of Student Success and Retention at Thomas More College. Noah is a 2005 graduate of Thomas More, where he was a James Graham Brown Honors scholar and a two-time Academic All-American for the baseball team. In 2009, Noah received his Juris Doctorate from Salmon P. Chase College of Law and is a licensed attorney in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Noah brings a passion for student success to his role and continues to engage students into realizing and achieving their dreams at Thomas More College and beyond.