BETHANY, W.Va. — Gaston Caperton, former governor of West Virginia and current president of the College Board of New York, spoke to Bethany College’s 2010 graduating class as part of the institution’s 170th anniversary Commencement Weekend. Caperton presented listeners with a challenge to view all of their experiences — both good and bad — as preparation for success.
Caperton delivered his remarks, “Preparation, Path to Success,” to Bethany’s 124 graduating seniors on May 15 in the grassy quadrangle adjacent to the College’s historic Old Main.
“Tomorrow you will take the next step in preparing for your own professional futures. You might not like it at first. I certainly didn’t,” Caperton stated. “But if you recognize the value of preparation, all your endeavors will take on added meaning. And you will pour your heart and your soul into something you might hate, just to prepare yourself for something you know you will love.”
A native of West Virginia, Caperton expressed gratitude for the role his parents played in helping him to achieve success and, in particular, throughout his journey to overcome dyslexia.
“I’m dyslexic, but back then not much was known about dyslexia,” he stated. “My father was the person who sat with me and taught me to read, day-in and day-out, working with me, encouraging me, pushing me.” Caperton continued, “I have learned firsthand that we are all born with the capacity to develop the skill sets of experts. And I attribute my own success in large measure to this discovery.”
Caperton is the recipient of numerous honorary doctoral degrees, including a Doctor of Laws from Bethany College. He earned his undergraduate degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and went on to work for a Charleston, W.Va., insurance agency, eventually becoming its principal owner. The company grew under his leadership to become the nation’s 10th-largest privately owned insurance brokerage firm.
Caperton was elected governor of West Virginia twice and served from 1989 to 1997. Education was a top priority during his time in office, and he is credited with raising teachers’ salaries, improving training for teachers in order to more effectively use technology in the classroom and supporting programs that led to $800 million in investments for new schools and improvements to existing structures.
Building upon his passion for improving educational opportunities for students, he has served as president of the College Board — a not-for-profit membership association composed of more than 5,700 schools, colleges, universities and other educational organizations — since 1999. The College Board annually serves seven million students and their parents, 23,000 high schools and 3,800 colleges through activities designed to help students successfully initiate and navigate their college careers. The SAT®, the PSAT/NMSQT® and the Advanced Placement Program® (AP®) are among the group’s programs.
Caperton’s May 15 address not only stressed the importance of the preparation students engaged in at Bethany College, but also throughout their lives with the help of others. “Everything they have done for you — reading to you, helping you with your homework, even signing you up for the piano lessons you always hated — it’s all been about preparing you to achieve your own goals, whatever you shall determine them to be.”
Bethany College President Dr. Scott D. Miller also emphasized the role students’ Bethany education has played in preparing them for future endeavors. “You are going to be right in the middle of some very interesting developments in your lifetime,” he said. “Moreover, your distinguished liberal arts education at Bethany College has prepared you exceptionally well to anticipate and manage change, one of the hallmarks of an educated person.”
Miller continued, saying, “The future in which you will live and work is fundamentally about incorporating new ideas and themes into our lives. In this way,” he added, “your liberal arts education will serve you well . . . Your professors at Bethany College have prepared you to analyze and synthesize new information, to think critically and to ask informed questions. All of you will need these skills as you move further into the 21st century.”
Dr. Marylouise Fennell, former president of Carlow University in Pittsburgh, Pa., and current Senior Counsel for The Council of Independent Colleges, delivered remarks to the graduating seniors during the College’s Baccalaureate service on May 14. Fennell was presented with an honorary Doctor of Humanities during the Commencement Ceremony.
Fennell is known internationally for her work as a consultant who specializes in the field of independent higher education. She serves as a mentor, counselor and consultant to presidents, administrators and boards of trustees of colleges and universities.
As senior counsel for the Council of Independent Colleges, based in Washington, D.C. she has headed the New Presidents Program for nearly 20 years. She has held both teaching and administrative positions at St. Joseph College and the University of Hartford in Connecticut, as well as Boston University.
Fennell, who has been the chief consultant for the Association of Private Universities of Central America, has worked in more than 20 countries and has received more than 50 honorary doctoral degrees. She serves as executive director of the Inter-American Consortium, a collaboration between six American (including Bethany) and 11 foreign higher educational institutions.
She is extensively published in the areas of accreditation, higher education and leadership and has co-published two books with Miller: “President to President: Views on Technology in Higher Education, Volume II” and “Presidential Perspectives (Volume IV): Leadership in the Great Depression,” She is the author of the Central American Accreditation Guidelines for Excellence in Education.
Fennell was born in Connecticut, and she entered the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas there in 1957. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Diocesan Sisters College, her Master of Education and Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study from the University of Hartford, and a Doctoral degree from Boston University. She has done post-doctoral training at institutions such as Harvard University and the University of Connecticut, among others.
Bethany College is a small college of national distinction located on a picturesque and historic 1,300-acre campus in the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia. Founded in 1840, Bethany is the state’s oldest private college. The College held its first Commencement on July 4, 1842.