BETHANY, W.Va. – Major League Baseball Commissioner Allan H. “Bud” Selig challenged the 163 members of Bethany College’s Class of 2008 to embrace the challenge of making a positive impact on a rapidly changing world during his Commencement Address on Saturday, May 17.
“(Jackie Robinson) was the only black man on the field or in the dugouts wherever Major League Baseball was played that day,” Selig said. “It was a great and magnificent moment that transcended the sport and did portray baseball as a metaphor for life. It arguably changed the course of this country’s social history. For the first time, baseball truly became the national pastime.”
The Commissioner said the perseverance, purpose and strength Robinson displayed during his battle to overcome years of ingrained social prejudice had a major impact on Selig’s stewardship of the game. Selig was elected the ninth Commissioner of Major League Baseball on July 9, 1998 after serving a similar role as Chairman of the Executive Council following Fay Vincent’s resignation in 1992.
During his tenure, Selig has instituted such groundbreaking changes as the six-division format, a wild card playoff round and interleague play while ushering in an era of long-term labor peace. Many of Selig’s moves were harshly criticized when they were implemented but the result has been a record-breaking run of prosperity for the sport he fell in love with as a young boy in Milwaukee.
“What I’ve learned from Jackie’s example and from my own career in baseball,” Selig told the Bethany graduates, “is that one’s social responsibility or an organization’s social responsibility often relies on one’s courage to do the right thing even when those around you may tell you it is not the right thing to do. It takes courage and vision to be a success and it takes courage and vision to make a difference.”
Selig accepted the invitation to speak at Bethany’s Commencement from Robert Nutting, chairman of the board for the Pittsburgh Pirates and a member of the College’s Board of Trustees. Following Selig’s speech, the Commissioner was conferred with an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters by Dr. Scott D. Miller, President of the College.
A small liberal arts college of national distinction, Bethany was founded in 1840 and held its first Commencement on July 4, 1842. It is the oldest degree-granting institution in West Virginia.