BETHANY, W.Va. – Former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge provided the keynote address to Bethany College’s 2014 graduating class capping the institution’s 174th Anniversary Commencement Weekend. One hundred and thirty eight students graduated with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in the Tilock Amphitheatre of the Pennington Quadrangle.
“Let me tell you,” Ridge said the Class of 2014, “you never forget where you started. Look around you. Some of those around you could be your friends for life. They’re the ones who saw you at your worst, and still gave you their best. Treasure them, because you’ll need someone who knows you well when you leave this place and find out that the world has already formed an opinion about you.”
“You see, you’re those Millennials. You’re supposed to be unmotivated, self-centered and soft. You’re not supposed to be ready for prime time. Let me say, on your behalf, they are dead wrong. Every generation hears about how unprepared they are, or how easy they’ve got it, how ill-equipped they are for the future, “Ridge said.
“The point is simple: Listen to your elders, but never let them speak for you – or for your generation. You are the ones in charge of your life, no one else.”
He concluded, “Silence the critics, prove the cynics wrong, prove your teachers right, make your parents proud, and you’ll make history.”
He was presented with an honorary Doctor of Laws degree by Dr. Miller and Dr. Gregory B. Jordan, Chair of the Board of Trustees. Dr. Jordan is Executive Vice President of PNC Financial Services Group.
Dr. Miller also addressed the graduates. “After today, you will no longer be Bethany students, but for the rest of your lives, you will be Bethany alumni, and as such, one of more than 22,000 distinguished men and women whose experiences at this Small College of National Distinction continue to inform your careers and contributions.”
“Theologians often note that we live between two boundaries – the world as it is, which is quid pro quo, and the world as we would like it to be,” Miller said. “As college graduates and leaders, you have an obligation to strive toward the second.”
Following the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, Ridge became the first Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and, on Jan. 24, 2003, became the first Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Prior to that, he served as Pennsylvania’s 43rd governor from 1995 to 2001. Governor Ridge's aggressive technology strategy helped fuel the state's advances in economic development, education, health care and the environment.
He is currently CEO of Ridge Global, LLC, a Washington, D.C.-based security consulting firm. As the company's chief executive, Ridge leads a team of international experts that help businesses and governments address a range of needs throughout their organizations, including risk management, global trade security, emergency preparedness and response, and strategic growth. He also serves as a partner at Ridge Schmidt Cyber, a cybersecurity firm, founded with former White House Cybersecurity Advisor Howard A. Schmidt.
Ridge served as a member of the United States House of Representatives from 1983 to 1995. He grew up in Erie, Pa., before attending Harvard University. After his first year at Penn State University's Dickinson School of Law, he was drafted into the U.S. Army, where he served as an infantry staff sergeant in Vietnam. After returning to Pennsylvania and to Dickinson, he earned his law degree and was in private practice before becoming assistant district attorney in Erie County.
Rev. Gary W. Kidwell, president of the Christian Church Foundation, in Indianapolis, Indiana, was presented with an honorary Doctor of Divinity. Kidwell delivered remarks to the graduating seniors during the College’s Baccalaureate service on May 16.
Rev. Kidwell is a graduate of Lexington Theological Seminary in Lexington, Kentucky, and of Campbellsville College in Campbellsville, Kentucky. He holds a certificate in nonprofit management from the Harvard Business School. He is a Chartered Financial Consultant, an Accredited Estate Planner, and a Certified Fund Raising Executive.
Prior to joining the Foundation staff in 1998, he worked with the Board of Church Extension, serving as a general consultant and vice president of field services. In 1985 he launched the Twin Pines Christian Church in Lexington as a new church pastor and developer. He was pastor of Walton Christian Church, Walton, Kentucky, from 1980 to 1985.
He is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and a trustee at Lexington Theological Seminary, serving as board chair since 2008.
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.