Then and now: ’71 YSU grad draws comparisons

By Bob Jackson

Graduates were urged to use their education to work toward resolution of national and world issues.

YOUNGSTOWN — The best of times and the worst of times.

That’s how Dr. David Sweet, president of Youngstown State University, summed up what lay both behind and ahead of the university’s most recent graduating class.

Some 700 degrees were issued during fall commencement activities Sunday afternoon at YSU’s Beeghly Center.

Referring to the opening lines of Charles Dickens’ classic novel, “A Tale of Two Cities,” Sweet said the completion of their education, culminating in graduation, is the best of times for the class of 2008.

“But you are leaving YSU in challenging economic times, the worst we have experienced in decades,” he said. Sweet challenged the graduates to use their leadership skills, gleaned through years of education at YSU, to develop “innovative solutions” to the challenges that lie ahead for the country and their local communities.

Scott Schulick, chairman of the university’s board of trustees, invoked the same literary reference during his remarks to the graduates. Schulick said he and Sweet did not compare notes before Sunday’s ceremony but said the state of world, national and local affairs today clearly brought the “best and worst” reference to both their minds when they were preparing their remarks.

Sweet and Schulick told the graduates that they are headed into a world fraught with challenges not seen in generations and that the world is ready and waiting for new leaders to step forward with ideas and solutions.

“Remember that your education and service go hand-in-hand,” Schulick said, urging graduates to use their education to help and serve others.

The guest speaker for the event was John A. Scott, a 1971 YSU graduate who is president and chief operating officer of Parsons, one of the world’s largest engineering and construction companies.

Scott received an honorary doctor of science degree from YSU during the ceremony.

Scott, 60, recalled his days on campus when classes were held in buildings such as the YWCA, the Plaza Hotel and a downtown church. He said he was pleasantly surprised to see how much the campus has grown since then.

“I can’t help but think how much the world has changed since I was sitting where you are, and at the same time, how little the world has changed since I was sitting where you are,” he told the graduates.

He said that in 1971, the United States was on the verge of a nationwide energy crisis, was embroiled in an unpopular war with no exit strategy, was seeing the introduction of smaller, more fuel-efficient Japanese-made cars into the American market, and President Richard Nixon was planning to introduce an economic stimulus package aimed at reviving the country’s stagnant economy.

“Does all of this sound familiar?” he said, referring to the obvious parallels in today’s news headlines.

He said globalization, which began to rear its head in the 1970s, burst into full gear during the 1990s with the development of real-time worldwide communication and global corporations.

“Never before, in the history of the world, has every challenge been a local challenge,” he said. “As a nation and as a community, we are facing unprecedented challenges.”

Scott said that these graduates could become part of a “defining generation” by helping to solve those critical world and national issues.

Scott is a recognized expert in the technologies and processes for destruction of the world’s stockpile of chemical and biological agents and weapons, and has played a key role in the design, construction and operation of every major chemical agent demilitarization facility in the world. He holds multiple patents on the processes to dispose of those agents.

Scott received a bachelor of engineering degree in mechanical engineering from YSU in 1971 and master’s of engineering in industrial engineering from Texas A&M University two years later.

The student speaker at Sunday’s ceremony was Nicole Caravella, who received degrees in advertising and public relations and marketing management.

She said that though the graduating class arrived at Sunday’s ceremony with diverse backgrounds, “All of our pasts are now colliding as we share recognition of our achievement. We have turned into remarkable young men and women. We have triumphed.”

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