by Jenny Gregory

CLEVELAND, Ga. (TMNews) –Dan Cathy, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Chick-fil-A, delivered the commencement address to 116 Truett-McConnell graduates, the largest graduating class in school history, Saturday, May 16.

The class of 2015 carried great significance, not only as the school’s largest graduating class but as the first-ever graduating class of nursing students.

Truett-McConnell President, Dr. Emir Caner, welcomed friends and family while referencing 1 Corinthians 16:18 where he emphasized the magnificent achievement of those adorned in cap and gown: “Today graduates, this is for you. For many of you, this campus holds a very dear and special place. For some of you, this is where you met the Lord Jesus Christ and you were saved. For all of you, this is a place where God put His hand upon you and put a call in your life.”

“You are now at a point where you are not merely called, you’re equipped; equipped to go forward with the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and equipped to be in that calling of professionals that God has called you to be. We believe God is going to raise up a generation to Himself and you are demonstration and evidence of that.”

A note from Cathy

After a brief introduction from Caner, Cathy took the podium amid welcoming applause, thanking everyone for the honor of speaking to this year’s graduating class of TMC students, and suggested two things the graduates needed to know as they leave campus to enter a new stage of life.

“If you are going to stay relevant with the incredible and unbelievable changes that are going on in today’s society and culture,” he said, “you better be really good at operating one of these devices right here,” pointing to his cell phone.

“You’re going out into a world of businesses, institutions and schools…where the slope of their change is not in sync with what’s taking place in society and culture,” Cathy said. “I know how irresponsible it would be of me not to be on Twitter, not to be on Facebook, not to use digital transactions…I’ve got to do it just to keep up.” Adding, “We’ve got to stay engaged.”

Cathy then held up a small New Testament Bible and said: “The most important thing is this. While we hang on to the device that reminds us of all the change, somewhere we must also hang on to things that are timeless.”

“For me, this little New Testament, I call it my switchblade, is a wonderful metaphor of all the things that have not changed and will not change,” Cathy said. Emphasizing how irresponsible it would be to elevate the importance of a smartphone over the importance God’s Word, Cathy pointed to his Bible and said: “This is about what it means to honor God by closing your business on Sunday. This is where we learn second mile service. Jesus had a lot to say to business people about how we should take care of customers. If you really want to break out of the pack and have sustained competitive advantage, lead from the perspective of the timeless truths of God’s word. It’s as revolutionary today as it ever was 2,000 years ago.”

Referencing the success of his family-owned business, Cathy shared that “people marvel at the results we have when we simply take biblical truth and principal and put it under the microscope and figure out how to put the skin on it.” While holding up the small New Testament, he implored: “I hope that you will be as versed as using this as you know how to download apps.”

Graduates were then instructed to hold up a symbolic and metaphoric baton which Chick-fil-A provided to each of them. As a baton is significant in a race, Cathy said, “I want to remind you with an audible example of the horrific sound you might hear if you had worked all your life for the Olympics and someone dropped the baton…because when you drop the baton, its over.”

After the graduates were instructed to simultaneously drop their batons, Cathy said, “That’s the sound of death…lost hopes…crushed dreams. It’s the sound of what happens when we loose perspective of where true north really is.”

Cathy concluded by telling the audience of Paul Anderson, a famous strong man and an acquaintance of his father. Anderson was invited many times to “come do strength demonstrations in front of Chick-fil-A restaurants.”

As a 15-year-old, Cathy remembered a specific time when he entered Anderson’s hotel room and noticed he was not ready to go but was sitting on the hotel bed reading the Bible.

“Often times when we see the private life of public individuals we are sorely disappointed,” Cathy said. “But not in this case, because the reason the world’s strongest man was not ready to start his day was he had not completed truing up his compass…”

“My challenge to you,” Cathy instructed the students, “is don’t drop the baton. True up your compass to God’s word and watch the exciting things that will happen.”

“Most of all,” Cathy said with a smile on his face, “as the cows say, eat more chicken!”

Truett-McConnell’s Chamber Singers, led by Dr. Ben Caston, Chair and Associate Professor or Music and Fine Arts, followed Cathy and performed “God Leads Us Along,” an arrangement by Jay Rouse.

Dr. John Yarborough, Truett-McConnell’s Director of Alumni Relations, echoed blessings to each graduate and welcomed them into the school’s alumni association, reminding them to represent and recruit Truett-McConnell as they leave and to come home often as this is their campus.

“We welcome you to the Alumni Association and we ask you to constantly keep this school in your prayers,” he said. “I pray that you will not only start well, as you have, but that you finish the race well; God Bless and welcome Alumni.”

Dr. Brad Reynolds, Truett-McConnell Vice President for Academic Services then presented the Bachelor’s degree candidates to Caner who then awarded those candidates with their degree as they walked across the stage.

After each graduate left the stage, Dr. Gary Fangmann, Assistant Professor of Business, concluded the ceremony with a word of prayer.


Jenny is the Content Manager for Truett-McConnell College.

Photo/Adam Roark


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