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President to graduates: make a difference in lives of others

December 16, 2013 8:30AM

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President Steve Scott congratulates a graduate at PSU's 2013 Fall Commencement Exercises.

Pittsburg State University President Steve Scott used a popular culture reference to offer graduating seniors some serious advice at PSU’s fall commencement ceremonies Friday evening.

Noting that the Oxford Dictionary recently selected the word “selfie,” (the popular practice of taking and sharing self portraits with one’s smartphone) as the 2013 word of the year, Scott used two personalities to illustrate a very different set of values.

Commencement mortar board decoration“Selfies are fun, but they are not what the world should be about, nor are they what your life should be about,” Scott said.

Instead, he said, a former PSU faculty member and a former world leader had both shown the value of focusing on others.

The president recalled the way that Linda Bitner, a longtime instructor in the Irene Ransom Bradley School of Nursing, focused on students. Bitner died unexpectedly just one month ago.

“Sadly, she’s not here to see her students cross the stage this evening, even though she worked tirelessly to help each of them arrive at this very moment,” Scott said. “She wanted them to be successful and to have this moment to celebrate a job well done.”

Scott quoted from a letter one of Bitner’s students wrote following her death. “It is because of Linda that I love what I do,” the student wrote. “It is because of Linda that I come to McPherson Hall with a smile on my face.”

“Clearly, Linda’s life was not about selfies,” Scott said. “It was about others. It was about selflessness. I hope you’ve seen this trait in all the faculty and staff who have guided you over these past few years.”

The president went on the note the contributions of another person, this one a world leader, who, like Linda Bitner, may not have understood the concept of the “selfie.”

“What a life (Nelson Mandela) led and what a difference he made,” Scott said. “His philosophy of life is captured in his words...’What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.’”

President Scott told the graduates that they could learn much that is good from both Bitner and Mandela.

“I’ve seen the impact this place has had on you. I’ve seen the impact you have had on Pittsburg State. Now I look forward to seeing the impact you have on this world,” he said.

©2013 Pittsburg State University