It was a great weekend for me and for our Health Sciences family.

There are many people responsible for success this weekend and in many ways, I was one of the least critical people. Our administrative team pulled together amazingly coordinating the eight ceremonies we hosted this weekend – they are fantastic!

We hosted graduations in Public Health, Exercise Physiology, PhD candidates, Dentistry, Nursing, Pharmacy, Medicine and Professional Students. We saw amazing students, wonderful parents and families, and inspiring faculty and staff, which turned out in impressive numbers.

There were, however, a few things that stood out.

One such event was for students being commissioned in the armed services – three in the Navy and one in the Air Force. Committing to a life of service for country is inspiring. Their families were bursting with pride for their student and also bore the anxiety of the potential that these young people may be placed in harms way. This ceremony taught me again about the extraordinary service citizens of our state make to the country.

Another event occurred during the dinner at the President’s house for the distinguished alumni.

Charlie McCoy, a famous country WV native and western performer and one of the best harmonica players in the world, played The River is Wide, an Irish folk song. It was magnificent – clear, haunting and beautiful. Music is so powerful.

This was brought home again by the playing of Country Roads at the end of each ceremony. The students and some of the faculty arm in arm swaying and singing John Denver’s version of Country Roads. A few tears of happiness and relief for some students and some parents.

This is truly a meaningful time. The lasting thing that this weekend impressed on me is the gift of education. As the first professional school graduate in my family, I thought of how different my life would have been if my parents hadn’t been committed to education – in the home, in the classroom and in the world.

It is sobering that the lack of education has the predictive outcome on shortening lifespan like smoking cigarettes.

It is a gift that every West Virginia citizen deserves and it is up to us to determine how to make this happen.

For the gift of education can lead more young people to the same seats our graduates sat in today.

This bright future is the right one for West Virginia.