Tom Walker, founder and CEO of the American Village Trust, Inc., challenged Troy University graduates to treasure their degrees and use them in service to others.
More than 725 graduates took part in two commencement ceremonies on Friday inside Trojan Arena on the Troy Campus.
Walker told TROY graduates that their degrees have prepared them for a life of learning, adapting, creating, innovating and meeting challenging and changing times.
“Even as you face a world of rapid and complex change, I urge you to be grounded, to be you, to be authentic and to hold on to and build your life on your core values which define who you are — your faith, your principles and your character,” Walker said. “Consider that degree you have received as a great treasure. Use it wisely in service to your profession, your community and to society. The gift of education doesn’t make someone better than anyone else, but it does prepare you, not only to make a living, but to fully live a life of learning, giving and serving.”
Walker encouraged graduates to set worthy goals that will stretch and allow them to grow and succeed.
“Set a worthy goal. Be persistent in pursuing that goal,” he said. “I strongly believe that persistence is the strongest contributor to success. Pursue your goal in determination with perseverance and persistence.”
Walker also challenged graduates to be stewards and protectors of liberty.
“Every American ought to be grateful to those who first stood for liberty and those throughout the generations who have continued to stand for it,” he said. “This nation has given us much. We owe our country our dedicated service as good citizens, for we are the stewards of the great fire of liberty. That great cause is not finished and it is a worthy civic commitment. I urge you to pick it up and make it your own.”
In addition, Walker encouraged graduates to always treasure life’s greatest gift – love.
“Too often our love goes unspoken,” he said. “Be bold, break that barrier and if those around you do not say the words ‘I love you’, you say it. Generations may view life from different perspectives, but love is the glue that holds us together. This world desperately needs more love. Boldly and with gladness, be among those who shares it day by day in both word and in deed.”
During the morning commencement ceremony, Walker was awarded an honorary doctorate by Dr. Jack Hawkins, Jr., Chancellor.
In the late 1980s, Walker had the idea to create the American Village Citizenship Trust as a place to educate and inspire a new generation of young people to be good citizens by building on America’s founding principles of liberty and self-government. His vision became a reality when the American Village was chartered in 1995.
In 2017, Walker was one of only 16 citizens appointed by Congressional leaders to the United States Semiquincentennial Commission, which is responsible for leading the nation’s 250th birthday celebration and commemoration of American independence in 2026. He was unanimously elected as Vice Chairman of the national commission during its first meeting in Philadelphia.
Walker is former City Manager of Northport, Alabama, and he formerly served as Special Assistant to the President at the University of Montevallo. He is the former Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees at the University of Montevallo and was the founding chair of the Alabama Higher Education Partnership.