Fuqua School’s Class Of 2015 Urged To Embrace Action

Published 12:43 pm Tuesday, June 2, 2015

FARMVILLE — Fuqua School held commencement exercises May 22 on the lawn of the Upper School.  The evening began at 6 p.m. with rising senior and SCA President Thomas Watson announcing the class of 2015.

Susan Carden, Middle/Upper School dean, opened commencement with prayer. The class of 39 includes 25 honor graduates.

First to speak was Salutatorian Katarina Gebauer. “Thank you, teachers, for not only giving us the academic knowledge necessary to obtain these diplomas, but also for cultivating the qualities that make us all unique, interesting individuals who are ready to take on whatever challenges come our way,” she said.

Valedictorian Kayla Lehman followed. “Life is a journey to find out what is important to you, and the only real measure of human success is staying true to yourself and what you love and value,” she said.

Giftorians Lucy Wallace and Luke Wyatt presented the class gifts.

Fuqua School President Ruth S. Murphy shared her memories of the seniors. “As a group — as a class of 39 students — you have been offered collectively over 4.2 million dollars in college scholarships,” she said. “Our graduates will be attending a remarkable array of colleges and universities. Many of you have been together since pre-kindergarten, and others have joined us along the way from as far away as China and the Netherlands. We are proud of you all.”

In keeping with its tradition of inviting outstanding alumni to speak at graduation, Silvije “Sly” Barisic, class of ’97, was selected as this year’s speaker. Sly received his bachelor of science degree from Longwood University and earned his master of business administration at the Terry School of Business at the University of Georgia in finance, real estate, entrepreneurship and risk management.  Sly is the co-founder and CEO of FotoIN, a single mobile tool to capture photos and information.

“Many memories come back and it’s awesome to be here today again,” Sly said. “I feel honored to be speaking to the Class of 2015. It has been 20 years since I came to the United States to attend Fuqua School as a junior. I want to thank the people that helped me get to Farmville and Fuqua School, especially my family back home in Croatia and Bosnia, the Gates family (my dad and brother James are in the audience today, and momma Dianne is watching from above), Mr. J.B. Fuqua for his vision and support of Fuqua School and securing scholarships for the international students, including me, and of course all those that made my experience here so awesome, including Ms. Murphy, faculty, staff and all my friends from the class of 1997.”

Sly shared three simple, yet powerful concepts.  “These concepts are very much in line with Mr. Fuqua’s legacy of entrepreneurship, hard work and leading by example,” he said.  “They are bifocal vision, using and developing tools for life, and bias for action.”

He added, “Bifocal vision is something I remember first appreciating when I heard it from the CEO of Martin Agency that spoke at my senior banquet at Longwood University. Bifocal vision is thinking about the future and short term at the same time. It may sound counterintuitive, but it makes more sense if you consider that short-term steps you take today determine your likelihood of achieving your long-term goals.”

“The next concept is using and developing tools for life,” he continued. “To master using and developing tools for life, you have to keep learning every day, on every level, personally, professionally, spiritually, in every way. Not just in school, but in life.”

The third step, the speaker noted, is to take action.

“Action is what makes everything real,” Sly said. “Faith without doing is not real; idea without implementation is not real; thought without action is just a thought. Embrace action with passion and work harder, learn harder, run longer, faster, try again and again. Keep trying and keep being active and you will succeed.”

“Think both about the future and today,” he said. “Use your tools and keep learning and developing them, be passionate about your life and take action. Don’t let your life happen — go out and make it happen and don’t forget to give back!”

The presentation of diplomas by Ruth S. Murphy and Robert M. Showalter, chair of the Rural Education Foundation Board of Directors, followed.

Commencement closed with a presentation in Gilmer Gym, including a reflections video created by Alexis Williams, a class history by Luke Wyatt, Senior Class president, and a song by Cali Foster, accompanied by Tamar den Besten on piano.