The Rt. Rev. Dr. Glenda Curry, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama, told Troy University graduates on Friday that their commencement ceremony was not an ending, but rather a beginning of their journey to become the best possible versions of themselves.
More than 850 graduates, representing 21 U.S. states and eight nations outside the United States, took part in the spring commencement exercises inside Trojan Arena on the Troy Campus. The field included three receiving the Doctor of Philosophy degree, eight receiving the Doctor of Nursing Practice degree and two receiving the Educational Specialist degree.
“We are all works in progress. Even the most well-adjusted and talented people among us is still being formed,” Bishop Curry said. “There is always room for growth. That’s probably the last thing you want to hear this morning because graduation means you’ve completed something. Every time I’ve graduated, I always believed I was finished, I was done. I was completed. But, the truth is, I had a long way to go, and each of you has many miles to go on this vocational road that you’re on. None of us are ever finished until we are, and, on top of that, none of us is truly in charge.”
Curry posed the question, “What will you be when you grow up?”
Remembering her own journey, Curry retraced steps that took her first to the field of nursing, then to teaching nursing and later into academic administration as President of Troy University at Montgomery.
“At the same time, I began to hear God calling me in a new way, and much to my surprise, I went back to school again to seminary, which led me to where I am today,” she said. “It is not what I imagined I would be doing when I grew up. Rather, you see, something else got involved – a power, a force greater than me, and of course, as a Christian Bishop, I’d call that power God. Regardless of the name, God has used everything that I ever was and am becoming to bring me to right here. I believe that God is working in each and every life in this room. In each place, God is trying to bring us to the very best version of ourselves.”
Curry encouraged graduates to use the milestone of graduation as an opportunity to look back on their lives.
“I think we can best see that power working when we look backwards on our life. There’s an old French proverb that says gratitude is the heart’s memory. There’s extraordinary grace in looking backward on your life,” she said. “You see things from a new perspective, and graduation is that sort of milestone that makes us look backward and that makes us give thanks. As we look backward, maybe we will also get a glimpse of what we think is most important and most valuable. Today, we give thanks for all those who have helped us reach this moment – all those lifegivers who have loved, supported, cheered us on, made today possible.”
Curry encouraged graduates to consider how their paths forward will help serve a greater good.
“Maybe the most valuable question that we can ask ourselves today is what kind of person will my vocation help me become,” she said. “What the job does to and for our heart, our soul and our spirit is really the greater good and the greater gift. Will we aim to add love and hope to the world in service of something greater than ourselves or will we seek only our own gratification? I’m believing that your accomplishments here are only the beginning of a longer, richer journey of realizing your gifts and of offering them for higher service. I’m betting your work in education, business or healthcare or the like will do no less than foster hope and joy in the world. Go now in safety, for you cannot go where God is not. Go in love for love alone endures. Go with commitment, being sure that God will honor your dedication and guide your path. And, in the winding road of life, may God’s peace be with you and with those you love always.”
Dr. Curry is the 12th Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama, and the first female bishop in Alabama. Before moving into full-time ministry, she was President of Troy State University Montgomery, the state’s first female college president at a four-year institution and was instrumental in founding the Rosa Parks Library and Museum.
She began her career as a nurse, a nursing educator and ultimately as Dean of the Troy University School of Nursing prior to being named President in 1991. She completed her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from the University of South Carolina in 1974, the Master of Science in Nursing Degree from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and the Ph.D. from Oklahoma State University. In 2002, she completed the Master of Divinity degree at the University of the South.