West Liberty University honored its Fall Class of 2013 at commencement exercises held at 11 a.m., Dec. 14, in the Academic, Sports and Recreation Complex.
Pittsburgh Pirates pitching coach and former Hilltopper Ray Searage delivered the commencement address to the 147 students, their family, friends and other guests. He also received a honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from President Robin C. Capehart just before addressing the crowd.
Prior to Searage's speech, graduates heard from student speaker 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 past. 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.
Commencement speaker Searage added to the memories as he recalled his days at West Liberty, playing baseball for Director of Athletics Jim Watson, who was then WLU baseball coach.
He prefaced his speech by warning the audience that, "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 him many times and I'm grateful to him and to this college," he 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."
"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."
Also providing inspiration was the West Liberty University Wind Ensemble, under the direction of Dr. Matthew Inkster.