Fairmont State University honored graduates during the University’s 154th Commencement exercises on Saturday, May 6 in the Feaster Center.
“Commencement is always an uplifting and exciting event on our campus,” said Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Tim Oxley. “Not only does it represent centuries of higher education tradition, it marks a significant milestone in the lives of our graduates that will serve them well throughout their lives. Commencement also reminds the University’s faculty and staff members of the importance of what we do, and why we do it; focused on a culmination of teaching, learning, and student engagement.”
This year’s commencement speaker was Fairmont State alumnus William “Bus” Jaco, Ph.D. The Grafton, WV native is Regents Professor Emeritus, Oklahoma State University, and Adjunct Professor of Mathematics at Rice University. He holds degrees from Fairmont State University (B.A. Cum Laude), Penn State University (M.A.), and University of Wisconsin-Madison (Ph.D.). He held faculty positions at University of Michigan and Rice University before joining the faculty at Oklahoma State University as Head of the Department of Mathematics in 1982 and was appointed Grayce B. Kerr Chair in 1993, an endowed position that he held until his retirement in 2021.
During his time at Fairmont State, Jaco was heavily involved in Tau Kappa Epsilon Fraternity when not in the classroom. During his speech, he fondly remembered his previous Professor in Mathematics, Dr. James La Rue who he referred to as an “advisor, mentor and friend.” La Rue had encouraged Jaco to continue on to higher education with his studies in math. When Dr. Jaco graduated from the College on the Hill in 1962, his son had attended with him donning a miniature cap and gown. Dr. Jaco returned to campus as commencement speaker and his wife, Linda, and eldest son were again with him for the occasion.
Jaco spoke briefly about his many accomplishments, achievements, and experiences that followed graduation from Fairmont State. He had enrolled in classes as a first-generation college student, hoping to make a living as a math teacher. He graduated with the determination and confidence to turn his dream into an incredible career. “Over the 61 years following my graduation from Fairmont State, I have held either a research, a teaching and research, or an administrative position in nine different states, through appointments at twenty different research institutions, and I have travelled the world to collaborate on research and work with colleagues spread across nine countries.”
Before ending his speech, Jaco left the graduates with some words of advice, emphasizing the importance of hard work and the inevitability of change. He reminded the class of 2023 to take chances, stating “I would rather be sorry for something I did, than to be sorry for something I never did do.” Finally, he encouraged them to view their time at Fairmont State as only the beginning of a lifetime of learning.
When asked about his experience returning to campus as the commencement speaker, he explained that learning of the wide array of programs offered at Fairmont State and seeing the graduates made him “impressed and proud to be there