Troy University welcomed incoming freshmen students to campus on Sunday afternoon during the annual Odyssey Convocation.
The Convocation seeks to encourage and inspire news students while also educating them to the University’s traditions as they begin their college journey – a journey that begins in Trojan Arena with Odyssey and ends in the same location as they cross the stage to receive their diplomas at commencement.
“Where you are today is representative of the alpha and omega of your experience at Troy University,” said Dr. Jack Hawkins, Jr., Chancellor. “You’re beginning your journey in this place today, but it is on this very stage that you will walk to receive your degree when you graduate. We want to make sure that each one of you have that opportunity because it will be life-changing and it will open doors for you that you can’t even envision at this point in time. We are very proud that you have chosen to become a Trojan.”
Dr. Hawkins encouraged the incoming students to make the most of their college experience.
“Get to know all the traditions of the University – the Alma Mater, the Fight Song and The Trojan Way,” he said. “There is truly something here for every student. We have over 200 student organizations. It has been a great source of pride through the years to see students come here, get involved with campus life and excel.”
Troy University alumnus and former Trojan baseball standout Tyler Vaughn delivered the keynote address during the convocation, recalling his journey with TROY as a student-athlete.
Addressing three themes, failure, perseverance and purpose, Vaughn recounted his early struggles to earn an active role on the TROY baseball roster. While he was highly successful in the classroom, Vaughn began to wonder if his baseball career with the Trojans was coming to an end.
“The question I kept coming back to was ‘What was I afraid of’? Baseball was no longer fun for me,” Vaughn said. “The answer that kept coming back to my mind was ‘what if I fail’? Through prayer what I discovered was that it wasn’t about the results, it was about the process. We can’t always control the results, but what we can control is how hard we work and what we put into it. Instead of being paralyzed by fear, I tried to focus on three words – Just Go Compete.”
While Vaughn encouraged students to learn from their failures rather than fearing them, and develop a mindset of perseverance.
“We will all experience failure at some point. At some point in our lives, we all will face rejection, we will let someone down and ultimately fall short, but that’s not where our story ends,” he said. “Deep down we have a desire to see people who experience things that are challenging to them or that face adversity who ultimately find a way to overcome that. We are drawn to perseverance. The reason we are drawn to perseverance is that deep down that when we have struggled, when we have been close, when we have been supported and we have persevered, we will truly see our purpose and what means the most to us.”
By developing a mindset of hard work and perseverance, Vaughn became a part of two Sun Belt Conference Championship teams that went on to make two NCAA Regional appearances. In his time with the Trojans, he was named a Capital One NCAA Division 1 Academic All-American (‘13, ‘14), Sun Belt First Team Short-Stop (‘13), as well as a Brooks Wallace Award Finalist list for top shortstop in the country (‘13). Aside from baseball, Vaughn was awarded with the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award, which recognizes recipients for their excellence of character, humanitarian service and spiritual qualities, and also received the Clements Award, which is granted to one graduating male and female student athlete for excellence in the classroom and in their sport.
“During that whole process I learned that it is not about the destination, it is about the journey,” Vaughn said. “I believe we are called to invest in and serve people and to be a part of a team. My time on the TROY baseball team was about seeing what God could do and about relying on God to provide in the midst of my failures. I encourage to show up, face your fears and failures, persevere and find in yourself purpose for the coming years. Enjoy the process. Change is waiting to on the other side.”
Vaughn, who earned his bachelor’s degree in chemistry with a minor in leadership studies in 2014, went on to earn a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree from the University of South Alabama in 2017, and today, is co-owner of Refine PT & Performance. Vaughn and his wife, Rachael, have two Australian Shepherds, and he continues to enjoy coaching baseball, camping, spending time with family and being outdoors.
Also during the convocation, student heard from Dr. Hal Fulmer, Dean of Undergraduate and First-Year Studies, Dr. Lance Tatum, Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, and SGA President Ava Carnazza. The event also included the symbolic lighting of the Odyssey flame and the singing of the Fight Song and the Alma Mater, accompanied by The Sound of the South.