On Friday, December 8, 2017, former East Georgia State College professor Sue Ella McCrimmon addressed students assembled for commencement practice.
In her introduction, Vice President for Institutional Advancement, Elizabeth Gilmer, said, “We are honored today to have with us Sue Ella McCrimmon, a former professor at EGSC. With family ties to Treutlen County, McCrimmon grew up in Alabama will soon be leaving Swainsboro to move back to Bessemer. When she taught here, Sue Ella was a teacher who rarely had an empty seat in her classroom. Students registered quickly for her classes because they knew they would be interesting, fun and always challenging.
“Sue Ella received her undergraduate degree from Birmingham Southern and taught 15 years at the Tennessee School for the Blind. There, she is credited with teaching blind students to use an abacus!
“Sue Ella has two Masters Degrees, two Masters Plus Credentials and has completed two major research projects. Her alma maters include Peabody (now Vanderbilt), Middle Tennessee State University, and Appalachian State, where she got her background in Developmental Education. She came to EGSC in 1995 and has been a friend and supporter since the moment she walked through the doors. Since retirement, you will see her in the fitness center, the library, and even a study abroad trip to Costa Rica. This past Spring, she shared her love for making home made ice cream with our ladies softball team.
Sue Ella has taught all ages – from kindergarten to college – and loves it. She also has a passion for Forestry and went back to Southeastern Tech a few years ago to study forestry and timber management. She serves on the Longleaf Pine Alliance at Auburn University. She volunteers at the National Park Service and Cumberland Island and spent a month in the Great Smokey Mountain National Park. In January, she will be traveling to the Dominican Republic but today, she is here with us to share some words of wisdom. You are in for a treat.”
McCrimmon then took the stage, addressing the following speech to those assembled:
I broke my right knee in 2006 and my left wrist in 2013.Orthopedic surgeons at either Emanuel Medical Center or Park View Hospital in Dublin patched my broken bones. At both hospitals, almost the first medical staff I met were working adults who had been my students. For someone like me who has always been a teacher it doesn’t get any better than that.
Though retired, I sometime say, ”If you scratch I’m still part teacher.” One of the satisfactions of talking with you today is that – one more time-- I am a teacher.
Being here is fun for me.
My goal is to speak briefly and clearly and to make six key points I’d be honored to have you choose an idea to remember and consider thoughtfully.
POINT NUMBER ONE: Be a Learner. Be a reader. Be a thinker. Ask Questions.
If you read, think, and ask questions, you will be a learner.
For years my favorite exam question was, “Tell me the most important thing you’ve learned this semester.”I wanted my students to have time to think about their answer and announced several days ahead that my favorite question would be part of the final exam. I always read those answers first and there was never a right or wrong answer. Every answer was credited. I think students who are aware of what they’re learning should feel good about themselves.
You’ll learn something about yourself if you’re willing and able to identify the most important thing you’ve learned as a college student.
My hope is that as a student you’ve met a faculty member, a staff member or another student who has encouraged you to be a learner.
One of my personal goals is that I will always be a learner.
POINT NUMBER TWO: Do Good Work.
Because it is a key to our identity and because it consumes a major portion of our lives the work we do does matter. Earn your livelihood with useful work and take pride in what you do.
Doing good work may mean that your work life is spent performing a task that benefits humanity. Whatever your task, good work happens when an individual is careful and conscientious in meeting his or her responsibilities. Aim to do good work.
POINT NUMBER THREE: Strive to Live with Compassion and Integrity.
When I am overwhelmed by all the “bad stuff” in the news, I remind myself that I cannot control those things. What I can do is live with as much compassion and integrity as I can muster.
Someone said to me once that it’s not possible to separate who we are from what we do. There were two features of my role as a classroom teacher. One was my knowledge of mathematics. The other was my personal values and their impact on my classroom leadership.
When we strive to live with compassion and integrity our conscience can know we’ve done our best.
POINT NUMBER FOUR: In his book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven Covey suggested that we “Laugh often and Love much.”
It takes fewer muscles to smile than to frown. Once upon a time, a young woman with bright purple hair appeared on the front row of my 8:00 o’clock class. I’d never seen a purple-haired student and laughed aloud. It was a relaxed, friendly laugh which the student happily accepted.
The book of Proverbs says, “A soft answer turns away wrath.” You may regret it when a four- letter word or an ugly remark slips out, but you will never regret a quick-witted response that contributes to warm-hearted laughter. In fact, warm-hearted laughter may change the tone of a difficult conversation. Truth to tell laughter is fun.
Remember two things: Laugh often and love much.
I lived in Nashville for 20 years. At the time, I attended a large, sophisticated Methodist Church near Vanderbilt University. In a Sunday sermon, Russ Montfort, then senior minister, said something I have never forgotten. After having observed that he’d spent all of his adult life thinking about and studying the significance of religious and spiritual values he affirmed his certainty of one thing: God is and Love matters.
I like clear statements that describe big ideas. One more time -- God is and Love matters.
Finally: Remember to do two things: Laugh often and Love much.
POINT NUMBER FIVE: Practice the Habit of Forgiveness.
Years ago, I participated in a faculty in-service in which the speaker asked everyone present who had never failed to raise his or her hand. My hand did not go up -- nor did any other hand in the room.
Life is not always fair. Perhaps you’ve already had your turn at some hard spot. It’s a given that if we live long enough, junk will happen. Practicing the habit of forgiveness will contribute to your peace of mind. Letting go of anger and hurt is a good thing.
Sometime pain, disappointment and failure happen because we ourselves make a mistake. Sometime pain, disappointment and failure happen because the people around us make a mistake. Either way forgiveness is in order.
I am very sure that the mental, emotional and spiritual energy necessary to forgive is energy well spent. I was not quite 40 when I had my first major experience with the peace that can come with letting go. In fact, I survived the experience a wiser and stronger woman. That important lesson in living has served me well in the years since. I have no doubt it is in our best interest as people who hope to be happy and mentally healthy to practice the habit of forgiveness.
POINT NUMBER SIX: Remember to be Grateful.
As best I understand, happy people are people who take the time to be grateful for the good things in their lives. Don’t wait for a big house or a million dollars. Take time to be aware of and grateful for the simple things.
Just for practice, visualize the natural sweetness of a fresh, juicy summer time tomato. Perhaps you grew it yourself or perhaps it came from the garden of a friend or neighbor. Slice that tomato, retrieve two slices of fresh bread, smear them with mayonnaise and sprinkle salt and pepper to taste. There is absolutely nothing better than a summer time tomato sandwich. For just a moment, savor the thought of our imaginary sandwich.
Being aware is a necessary companion of gratitude. Happy people are people who take the time to be grateful.
As I began thinking about what I’d say on this occasion, a friend I trust listened to me encouraged me and critiqued an early draft. Remember to be grateful for the family and friends who listen to you and encourage you because they care about you. In my judgment, when we’ve been blessed by the good people in our lives we are meant to pass that blessing along.
I strongly recommend that you take time to name the three things in your life for which you are most grateful.
This College has always been an integral part of my Swainsboro life. I came to Swainsboro in 1995 as a member of East Georgia’s mathematics faculty and have lived in Swainsboro for more than 20 years.
Swainsboro has been my home. I have always been proud of my association with East Georgia State College and am most grateful to Dr. Boehmer and East Georgia State College for the opportunity to speak with you.
I like students and enjoyed teaching, but have also enjoyed retirement. As emeritus faculty I have been a fitness room regular and in 2015 traveled with an East Georgia group to Costa Rica.
My association with the good people of this community has warmed my heart. Their kindness, their friendship and their support have made Swainsboro home.
I grew up in Bessemer, Alabama. My roots, my childhood memories and all of my immediate family are in Bessemer or nearby in metropolitan Birmingham. In the Spring, I will leave Swainsboro and begin the next chapter of my life – at home in Bessemer.
An opportunity to speak with you today has been for me the right way to honor both my ties to East Georgia State College and the people of Swainsboro.
Thank you all for sharing my life.