STEUBENVILLE - Dr. Matt Colflesh advised the 2013 graduating class of Edison High School to work to determine their own value and never stop that discovery.
"This can be a clean slate for some of you. Some of the most talented people I've known weren't exactly all stars in high school. Never underestimate the value that you can have to other people. Show some passion for something, the world is starving for people with enthusiasm," the Edison High School 1992 valedictorian told the 147 graduates Friday night in the football stadium.
Several hundred family and friends braved chilly temperatures to hear Colflesh discuss his life at Edison High School and a semester he spent studying at Oxford University in England.
GUEST SPEAKER — Dr. Matt Colflesh, a 1992 Edison High School valedictorian, urged the 147 graduates of Edison High School to value life during his commencement ceremony remarks Friday night. -- Dave Gossett
"Oxford is actually 38 different colleges, all of them with famous graduates. I attended Exeter where the most famous graduate was J.R.R. Tolkien. I was just two years from where you sit now when I was invited to study in England. I had never been on an airplane and had never been overseas," related Colflesh.
"I was nervous about going there. The first night there was the traditional dinner in a huge stone dining room with long wooden tables. I found a place by a girl who appeared to be American. As the professors filed in I asked her where she was from and she told me Alaska. Then she told me she wasn't actually from Alaska but her father was in the Air Force and that was where her family was leaving at the time. 'I'm actually from Ohio' she said and I told her I was from Ohio. She replied she was from, 'a little town I probably never heard of called Wintersville', so I knew it was going to be OK," explained Colflesh.
"Value others. Do your best to avoid prejudices and misperceptions. Give people a chance before you label them," Colflesh continued.
"And value life, Today is a great moment in your life," he said.
"Value a word with many facets to it, with different meanings and connotations. Value is the quantity of something that does not change. It's objective. It is what it is. Like a number," remarked Colflesh.
"Then there are some values in life that you can argue. The value of a car, a house, an insurance policy, a contractor for home repairs, a new furnace, stove, air conditioner unit, carpet, lawnmower, new air compressor, plastic versus metal fixtures, chair covers or no chair covers, long tables or rounds tables, laser lights on the dance floor if the DJ gives us a good price, chicken or fish or both," Colflesh related..
"You will have so many other decisions you can look forward to in your life, and there will be literally billions of dollars spent to convince you of the value of these things," advised Colflesh.
"Then we start move toward placing value on others, on other human beings. Our value of others is set consciously and subconsciously based upon our own personal experiences and our own values in life. Obviously by the sheer number of people here to see you, you must be pretty valuable, probably more so than you even may think," declared Colflesh.
"Aside from faculty and administrators, there are different people in your life who find this day valuable. There are those that came because they've known you and loved you. Such as family or friends that raised you and have seen you grow. Some of them haven't stopped crying since they saw you in your cap and gown. They remember the first day of school, the first tooth, the first bike ride, and since we are Edison, I'll add the first ride on the quad and first deer," said Colflesh.
"As a physician I can't tell you how many times patients have been threatened by other family members to take better care of themselves and take their medicine. You hear threats such as 'Bob, if you don't do what he tells you, you're not gonna see your grandson graduate'," Colfesh told the graduates.
Colflesh received his bachelor's degree as a Chuck Yeager Scholar at Marshall University. He studied at England's Oxford University as well as studies of lemur habitats and medicinal plants in the rain forest of Madagascar.
He went on to receive his Doctor of Medicine degree at Marshall in 2000. He completed his residency in Internal Medicine from the Temple University program at West Penn Hospital.
Colflesh is currently in practice in the Trinity Health System in Steubenville..
"There are those that wanted to be here and couldn't, due to illness, distance, or loved ones that have passed, and we remember them. As a doctor I'm all too much aware of the reality that there are some people that should be here and aren't. Those people we try to forgive knowing how many people here know the value of this day for you," said Colflesh.
"So this piece of paper with your name on it is so much more than that. It is a symbol of your growth, and will bring memories of that time in your life. It is a reflection of all of those people in your life that celebrate you and your value.," advised Colflesh.
"Many of you will go on to add more diplomas and certificates and honors that will go on a wall. In a doctor's office we have these things. My father calls it the 'I Love Me' wall, which is actually kind of funny, but these pieces of paper remind you of those times of your life, and give you some perspective," he noted.
"As you go on after today others will determine your value as well. You will be assessed. This is one of the biggest challenges in success, to set aside how your perceived. This was one of my biggest challenges," stated Colflesh.