Kwast challenges graduates to use gifts to serve others

Lt. Gen. Steven Kwast addresses graduates during Friday's Spring Commencement ceremony on the Troy Campus.

Lt. Gen. Steven Kwast addresses graduates during Friday's Spring Commencement ceremony on the Troy Campus.

Lt. Gen. Steven L. Kwast, commander and president of Air University, encouraged Troy University graduates on Friday to discover their passions and then hone those gifts to serve others.

Gen. Kwast delivered the keynote address to nearly 950 graduates during Spring Commencement exercises in Trojan Arena on the Troy Campus. Graduates represented 29 states and 13 nations.

Calling graduates the “pioneers of the future,” Gen. Kwast said there were two secrets to gaining happiness and success in life.

“Discover your passion and then refine your gift in the service of others,” he said. “Don’t think you have to have it all figured out today. It is a lifetime journey. If you find that one thing, dedicate yourself to it and then give it in service, you will find that you will be wildly successful.”

Gen. Kwast said while conflict will always exist in the world, the members of the graduating class have the opportunity to bring about positive change.

“Use your gifts to uplift others within your communities,” he said. “Don’t shove your opinions and beliefs down others’ throats, but rather take time to listen to their beliefs. When you take time to listen, you will learn. When you learn, you are able to help. When you help, you are able to lead and then you can change the world.”

In his role at Air University, Kwast leads the intellectual and leadership center of the Air Force, graduating more than 50,000 resident and 120,000 non-resident officers, enlisted and civilian personnel each year. He is also responsible for officer commissioning through the Officer Training School and the Reserve Officer Training Corps.

Also during Friday’s ceremony, Troy University presented an honorary Doctor of Laws degree to alumnus and Medal of Honor winner Bennie Adkins.

Adkins, a former Green Beret and retired command sergeant major in the U.S. Army Special Forces, spent three tours of duty in Vietnam, serving in some of the most active war zones in the Vietnam theater. His actions during his second tour of duty in the A Shau Valley in 1966 resulted in a Distinguished Service Cross and, in 2014, the Congressional Medal of Honor. He completed his undergraduate degree and two master’s degrees at TROY and launched an accounting firm that he ran for 22 years before retiring.

Adkins recently formed the Bennie Adkins Foundation, which provides scholarships to enable Special Forces enlisted personnel to continue their education and ease the transition from military to civilian life.