STEUBENVILLE - Laura Meeks, president of Eastern Gateway Community College, told the college's Class of 2014 Saturday's commencement program "is a big deal for you. It's a door opener to your future."
But she added it's also a big deal for the college itself because they comprise the largest graduating class, with 358 members, in the Jefferson County campus' 45 years.
She said it was fitting that Edward Florak, the college's second president, returned to serve as keynote speaker because he led the former Jefferson Technical College in becoming a community college, expanding the number of students it may serve.
Ed Florak, president emeritus at Eastern Gateway Community College, encouraged the college’s Class of 2014, the largest in the Jefferson County campus’ 45 years, to study the behavior of others and their own.
Meeks added Florak also led three levy campaigns that allowed the college to expand its facilities and services and was involved in the establishment of the Horizon Grant program, which has made two years' free tuition available to many eligible Jefferson County residents.
Florak told the Class of 2014 motivation to succeed in life and to have successful relationships lies within each individual.
He said Victor Frankl, an Austrian psychologist and Holocaust survivor, believed that a person's life is driven by his or her search for meaning. A licensed psychologist, Florak said key to that is studying the behavior of one's self and others.
"You have to learn about yourself, other people and how you interact or engage them," he said, adding they should learn about their behavioral styles and how others react to them.
"In pursuing your life mission, the better you understand yourself, one part of the prescription for living, and understand others, another part of the prescription for living, the better prepared you will be to manage yourself and participate in the interaction between the two," Florak said.
"Become more knowledgeable about behavior styles, which will help you manage yourself and engage others. Your life will take on added meaning if you develop purposes and plans, and above all I am convinced your character will come shining on through."
Florak added the graduates should consider what they want to accomplish in life and set a series of attainable goals to achieve that.
He said there's truth to the old adage, "By the yard, it's hard, but by the inch, it's a cinch."
Florak said good character isn't something possessed only by firefighters, soldiers and others recognized for heroism. It's something everyone should strive for, he said.
He recited Peter Dale Winbrow Sr.'s poem, "The Man in the Glass," which conveys the message that whatever success a person achieves, he must be able to look at himself in the mirror.
Meeks also acknowledged the retirements of Assistant Professor Anton Salinski, assistant professor of humanities and social sciences for nearly 10 years, and Gretchen Higgins McGuire, assistant professor of business technologies for 35 years.