Alabama Supreme Court Justice and alumnus Tommy Bryan encouraged Troy University graduates on Friday to possess faith in themselves and others, hope for the future and love for themselves and others during Spring Commencement.
Some 737 undergraduates and 215 graduate students from 30 U.S. states and territories and 13 nations outside the United States took part in two ceremonies inside Trojan Arena on the Troy Campus.
“It is crucial that you have faith in yourselves, the friends you select and in the God you worship,” Bryan told graduates. “Faith is an expression of hope for something better. We all act in faith when there is no certainty guaranteed. You will find that you will act on faith for that new job for which you really don’t know what the expectations are. You will act on faith in finding that life mate that you are wishing for. And, you will act on faith for numerous, sometimes difficult life decisions that will come.”
Bryan said that the support of others has and would continue to have a tremendous impact on the lives of graduates.
“It matters who your inner circle is,” he said. “I did not become a judge and later a justice all on my own. I had friends who invested in me, who had faith in me, who stepped out and vouched for me. Their faith in me propelled me to do greater things than I could accomplish on my own. Graduates, it matters who your friends are and the faith they have in you. The faith you put in your friends also matters.”
Hope, Bryan told graduates, was the belief that the future could be better than the past.
“We have a role to play in making that future a reality. Hope can lead to positive outcomes,” he said. “It can be a protective factor, buffering against adversity and stress. I am a product of hope. When I attended Troy State University back in the mid-70s, I was fortunate enough to have mentors who poured into me and gave me hope that I would one day experience success. One of my mentors was Caroline Gibson, who served as the University’s Career Development Officers. She was always telling me and others how we could use our talents for success. She gave young men and women attending Troy State University hope for our futures. A friend’s hope can be crucial to your success. You can also be that friend that gives another hope for their life goals.”
Bryan said today’s world is in desperate need of more love, mercy and grace.
“Graduates, parents and loved ones we need more love and mercy today. In a society where it is my party versus your party, my issue versus your issue, my hurt versus your hurt, we need to accept and love one another,” he said. “We need to have mercy and forgiveness. It doesn’t mean we have to agree on every matter or issue, but we can agree to peaceably and congenially agree to disagree. Love conquers a multitude of sins, issues and mistakes. I challenge you to be that person that succeeds, but succeeds with a spirit of gentleness.”
Finally, Bryan challenged graduates to put themselves “out there” and do the work necessary to be successful.
“Follow your dreams, but give yourself grace and be patient with yourself, even when you fail. Be patient with others,” he said. “You are more than enough. You have been instilled with the Trojan Warrior Spirit here at TROY; now, go conquer the world with faith in your future, hope for tomorrow and love for mankind. You can succeed in dreams that you cannot even imagine at this point in life. When you look back on your life, may you be able to say that you have fought the good fight, and that because of your diligence in pursuing faith, hope and love, you have brought luster to a new generation.”
Bryan was raised on a family farm in southern Crenshaw County, Alabama, where his parents taught him the values of faith, family and hard work.
A 1974 graduate of Brantley High School, Bryan continued his education at Troy State University, where he received Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in education. In 1983, he graduated from the Thomas Goode Jones School of Law.
In 2012, Bryan was elected to the Alabama Supreme Court and was sworn into office as an Associate Justice in January 2013. He was re-elected to the Alabama Supreme Court in 2018 without opposition.
Bryan is a member of the Alabama Bar Association. Also, he has been admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit and the District of Columbia. In 2014, Bryan was named as a “Significant Sig” of the Sigma Chi international fraternity. He was also a charter member of Troy University’s Sigma Chi chapter in 1977. In 2019, he was recognized as one of Troy University’s Alumni of the Year.
Bryan is married to the former Pamela Mizzell from Tuscaloosa, and they have two children—a daughter, Thomason, and a son, Tucker.
Photos from the Commencement Breakfast Reception are available here.