Tebow’s challenge to Trine graduates: Conviction, perspective, service
On a day that included many emotional moments, Tim Tebow charged Trine University’s graduating students to guide their lives by convictions rather than emotions.
“If your emotions lead your life, congratulations: The rest of your life will be a roller coaster,” the Heisman Trophy winner, former NFL player and philanthropist told a packed Keith E. Busse/Steel Dynamics Inc. Athletic and Recreation Center on May 7.
Trine University President Earl D. Brooks II, Ph.D., began the Commencement ceremony, which honored the 923 members of the Class of 2022, by noting that the COVID-19 pandemic shaped students’ time at Trine.
“But I truly believe that, when you look back on your undergraduate experience, you will think mostly about other things,” he said. “Take pride in how you weathered the storm. But mostly, savor the great times you had on this campus, the relationships you made and the world-class education you received.”
Following a video introduction, Tebow began the Commencement address, quickly moving out from behind the podium and moving and gesturing frequently as he spoke.
He said he hoped all in attendance would be inspired rather than just feeling encouraged.
“You know what inspired means?” he asked. “It means to fill someone with the urge to do something. And I would rather be someone that did something than felt something.”
In addition to following convictions over emotions, Tebow challenged graduates to seek perspective into what really matters.
He told the story of meeting Kelly Faughnan, whom he met the night before the Home Depot awards ceremony for top college football players his senior year. Faughnan suffered from brain tumors and resulting tremors, and Tebow was so inspired by meeting her that he asked her to be his date to the awards ceremony.
He confessed that after being knocked out of national championship contention by Alabama and being passed over for six individual awards he was nominated for, his attitude was not what it should have been. But realizing what the night meant for Kelly helped him keep perspective.
“Years later, I don’t even remember what those awards were for, but I remember Kelly and I’m still friends with her to this day,” he said. “And this young girl that’s overcome so much in her life has raised over $300,000 to be able to impact other people who are going through the same thing that she’s gone through. That’s a hero. Why? Because she had perspective and she changed my perspective.”
Making a difference
He also challenged graduates to be ready to make a difference. He told the story of his father, a missionary who, when confronted with a group that was sex trafficking young girls, took out all the money in his wallet and purchased the girls’ freedom.
“I hope every single one of you, whenever it comes, wherever it comes, when you know this is what I’m supposed to say yes to, you say yes to that urging and divine invitation to say yes to a particular task,” he said.
He closed with a story about George Jenkins, founder of the Publix supermarket chain. Generous throughout his lifetime, Jenkins was asked by a reporter on his deathbed what he thought he would be worth if he hadn’t given so much away.
“George Jenkins thought for a moment and then looked and said ‘Son, probably nothing,’ ” Tebow recounted, “because George Jenkins understood that there is a difference between success and significance.
“I hope every single one of you are successful. That would be my hope and prayer. But more than that, I hope every single one of you are significant. Success is about us. Significance is about other people. I want you to know that you have a great calling, a great purpose, say yes to it and go make a difference.”
Following the address, which received a standing ovation, the university presented honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degrees to Tebow and to Chuck Surack, founder and chairman of the board of Sweetwater. In addition to his role as head of Sweetwater and other businesses under the Surack Enterprises umbrella, Surack and his wife Lisa volunteer in numerous roles and generously support more than 600 organizations annually, including Trine University.
The Class of 2022
John Milliken, assistant vice president for academic success, read graduates’ names for the last time, since he is retiring from the university after 18 years. Dr. Brooks also noted that this year’s Commencement was the last under the direction of Deb Helmsing, who is retiring after 38 years as registrar.
Four graduating softball players — Mercede Daugherty, Taylor Murdock, Alexis Clark and Ashley Swartout — received their degrees first in order to leave for the Thunder’s noon start against Calvin in the MIAA tournament. Trine defeated Calvin and Hope to win the MIAA championship and advance to the NCAA Division III national tournament.
As graduates received their degrees, many stopped by for a fist bump, handshake or hug from Tebow. Some took selfies with Tebow and one carried a football onto the stage for him to autograph.
The parents of Cody Beeks received a standing ovation as they accepted a degree awarded to him posthumously. Beeks died in a 2020 ATV accident and would have graduated with the Class of 2022.
Help on the journey
Following the presentation of degrees, Rachel Troutman, president of the Trine University Alumni Association, inducted the new members into the association and welcomed them as Trine alumni.
In her response, Meghan Schrader, recipient of the Robert B. Stewart Award for the Class of 2022, thanked all who helped the Class of 2022 through their Trine journey.
“We could not have gotten here today without all of you: You who supported us, you who answered our 1 a.m. emails or our panicked phone calls, who eased our worries and guided us along in our journey,” she said.
Recapping events over the last four years that included the Polar Vortex that canceled classes, campus losing power due to a raccoon “that got too friendly with a transformer,” and smaller occurrences such as trying to beat a train crossing campus before it blocked the path to class, Schrader said those memories created a special bond for the Class of 2022.
“We went through a lot together, and it’ll be those memories that we take with us when we leave this place,” she said.
In closing, Dr. Brooks told the graduates that, having achieved one set of goals, it was now time to move on to others.
“Your family and friends have joined you today because they have given much of themselves to see you reach this pinnacle in your life,” he said. “Remember them and then strive to do the same for others.”
More photos from Commencement are available on SmugMug.