WEST LIBERTY - Pittsburgh Pirates pitching coach and former Hilltopper Ray Searage urged the West Liberty University fall Class of 2013 to "meet what's still to come with thanks, with strength and with faith."
Searage was the keynote speaker during the commencement exercise held in the Academic, Sports and Recreation Complex on the campus Saturday morning. On hand were the 147 graduates, their families and educators.
He recalled his days at West Liberty, playing baseball for Director of Athletics Jim Watson, who was then the WLU baseball coach.
Searage prefaced his speech by warning the audience, "I'm Polish and left handed so I'm tough to understand."
Saying he was grateful for what WLU's done for him in his life, he referred to West Liberty as the greatest gift he ever received.
"Coach Watson saved me many times and I'm grateful to him and to this college," Searage said.
Turning to the Pittsburgh Pirates' recent season and their first trip to the playoffs since 1992, he said, "Our season this year was unbelievable. Many other people helped me. People I surrounded myself with were people I could trust."
He said learning to handle life's ups and downs is not always easy, but can be managed.
"One thing I've learned and it might help you what the Pirates have learned is how to shower off and start over. We don't dwell on what happened the day before. Start over again. Shower it off on Thursday and go get 'em on Friday. Our guys confronted their fears. Then they became their strengths.
"Moments of gratitude come when you realize you are given exactly what you need at that moment. There are lots of good things ahead of you. Take it as a challenge. In this season of gratitude and giving it continues. May you have a happy and meaningful holiday season. Meet what's still to come with thanks, with strength and with faith."
Searage received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from WLU President Robin C. Capehart just before addressing the crowd.
Also speaking Saturday was student Michael Anderson, who recalled his favorite moments on campus and discussed the values he learned.
"Today we graduate and the rest we will work out. We may not sit in lectures or labs but there are still lessons to learn. Soon the West Liberty that was ours will pass. But right now it's ours and though the future is uncertain WLU goes with us," said Anderson, who earned a degree in music education in the College of Arts and Communication.
Also providing inspiration was the WLU Wind Ensemble, under the direction of Matthew Inkster.
Students graduating summa cum laude (highest honors) are Haley Rene Bengier of Steubenville, Ohio; Vicki L. Boyd of Windsor Heights, W.Va.; Cody Dean Gaston of Colliers, W.Va.; Johanna Mary Kathryn Staffel of Bethany, W.Va..
Students graduating magna cum laude (high honors) are Claire N. Juszczak of Chester, W.Va.; Dorothy H. Kovach of Steubenville, Ohio; Jordan Elizabeth Wells of Weirton; and Alyssa Marie Williams of Wintersville, Ohio.
Students graduating cum laude (honors) are Hannah K. Courtney of Weirton; Andrew John Lesnansky of Richmond, Ohio; Amanda R. Shuba of Hickory, Pa.
Masters degree candidates by hometown are as follows: Amy L. Ludewig, Follansbee.
Undergraduate degree candidates by hometown are as follows:
Carissa B. Aracich, of Bethany; Dustin A. Lang, of Chester; Donald C. Stilgenbauer, of Colliers; Heather Kacy Conley, Zachary David Heaton, and Anthony J. Santangelo, all of Follansbee; Sherry C. Barr, Megan Anna Baxter, both of New Cumberland; Amanda Renee Shuman, of Newell; Jennifer Lynn Blake, Natalie Bohn, Cassandra J. Fetzer, Theresa Marie Fetzer, Jayce A. Jerrel, Richard D. Lamp, Joshua L. Lang, Kelli M. Lighthiser, Clayton J. Pate, Britni Marie Recinella, Derrick M. Rovira, Daniel C. Strohmeyer, Spencer J. Thomas, Anthony David Valles, Ronda Wilson, and Carla M. Gianni Young, all of Weirton; Madison M. Bain and Daniel W. Conley, of Wellsburg; Kandis S. Reid, of Windsor Heights; Jordan A. Edwards, of Mingo Junction; Brooke Ashley Andrews, Jason Joseph Humienny, and Keith M. Zapolnik, of Steubenville; and Jesse B. Loborec, of Burgettstown.