UF Commencement Addresses Emphasize Service Above Self
Speakers at the University of Findlay’s May 6 commencement ceremonies urged new graduates to push boundaries and improve others’ lives as they advance professionally and personally.
Addressing audiences were Adam Hechko ’02, DVM, and Ohio Senator Randy Gardner, R-Bowling Green.
Hechko, a UF Founders Son Award winner and now the owner and medical director of North Royalton Animal Hospital and Paws at Play Resort and Daycare in Ohio, quoted Walt Disney when emphasizing the importance of teamwork, and asked students to dream about doing what may seem impossible.
“I dare each of you to go beyond your comfort zone,” said Hechko, who followed his own advice shortly before graduating from veterinary school by acquiring a practice and jumping headfirst into operating a business.
Hechko said he has since “ruffled feathers” in the veterinary medicine community and in the neighborhood where the clinic is located by expanding his horizons both in practice and in physical location to improve services for the animals he treats and their owners. He has been the recipient of criticism, he said, and even vandalism of his clinic for the ideas he has applied, but he has persevered.
“I chose not to be ordinary and I embraced humor to get me where I wanted to go,” Hechko explained. “
Hechko’s philosophy has been successful. He has grown his business by adding boarding services, hosted events for the community, and in 2015 the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) named the North Royalton Animal Hospital its Practice of the Year. In 2016 Hechko was elected as an AAHA board member.
“There were plenty of bumps, hurdles and what many would consider sinkholes at the beginning of my career,” Hechko admitted. But he said he continues to strive toward his unconventional goals, which he does not allow others to define.
“Stay true to yourself” and be present and compassionate with everyone you meet, Hechko told those at the graduate commencement ceremony prior to the conferring of degrees.
Gardner has delivered many speeches over the years, but the one he gave at Saturday’s undergraduate commencement ceremony was special because his son, Austin, was receiving his degree that day.
Gardner discussed the concepts of success and individual agency by mentioning a visit he paid to fifth graders for a Constitution Day celebration. He asked the students who they thought his boss was, and after answers such as the U.S. president and governor of Ohio, he explained that all residents of Ohio were, including the fifth graders themselves.
“The lesson is that everyone matters,” whether or not they’ve lived up to prevailing definitions of success that our culture upholds, Gardner said.
When researching what success is, Gardner said he came across a commencement address given at the College of William and Mary six years ago that resonated with him. Success, he maintained, is about being of value to others. Achievement and success, rather being exclusive goals to attain, should be understood as being “part of a journey to make others’ lives better,” he said.
“I believe that too often people look to government as an answer to their problems,” Gardner said. Echoing sentiments offered by Hechko earlier in the day, he mentioned collaboration between parents, teachers and students as foundational to living a fulfilling and meaningful life.
“You are a success. You have achieved something special,” Gardner told graduates. “You are a human being of boundless potential to help others.”
Images for both commencements and the arch ceremony can be found by clicking here.