Mackey challenges Troy University graduates to invest in themselves, give back

Mackey delivers the keynote address during Friday morning's summer commencement ceremony inside Trojan Arena on the Troy Campus.

Mackey delivers the keynote address during Friday morning's summer commencement ceremony inside Trojan Arena on the Troy Campus.

Alabama State Superintendent of Education Dr. Eric Mackey challenged Troy University graduates on Friday to consider two questions – what will they take in life and what will they give?

More than 400 graduates, representing 26 U.S. states and 11 countries outside the U.S., took part in Friday’s summer commencement ceremony in Trojan Arena on the Troy Campus. Among the 232 undergraduate students and nearly 200 graduate students participating will be two who are receiving the Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Sport Management.

Dr. Mackey told graduates that earning their degree is indeed a time to celebrate.

“We are fortunate to live in a great country and a world where we value education,” he said. “We value it not just because of what you earn in a degree, but we value it because the degree that you get today signifies self-discipline, perseverance and personal resolve. Those are qualities that we celebrate in you, as graduates today, and they are qualities that we celebrate an institution like this.”

While the commencement ceremony marks the end of this part of the journey, Dr. Mackey said it also marks a beginning.

“I hope you remember this day as the beginning of new opportunities, the opening of wider vistas. Today is just the beginning of new and wider opportunities in your life as you graduate from this esteemed institution,” he said. “You are on the precipice of great and wonderful things in your life, and I hope that you understand that today is the horizon of new opportunities. Today is not the day that we give you your diploma, shake your hand and give you a checkered flag, but it’s the green flag. Today is the beginning of go.”

Dr. Mackey encouraged graduates to take things from life for their benefit as well as the benefit of those around them.

“I hope you will take something from this life that will make you a better person because it will make everyone around you better for that,” he said. “Each day, I hope that each of you will commit yourself to take something for yourself in life. You need to make yourself a better person, each day.”

Likewise, Dr. Mackey challenged graduates to commit themselves to giving back and making a difference.

“While I hope you live a life where you take something every day to make yourself a better person, I hope also that you are questioning, ‘What will I give in this life to make it a better place for others?’ You have a set of skills,” he said. “You have sought and obtained a formal education, and now you have an opportunity, but moreover, you have a responsibility to give back. Give back every day in some way. Each of us has something to give. Look for opportunities and make it happen.”

Dr. Mackey was named state superintendent in 2018 and has focused on innovative initiatives outlined in the strategic plan, Alabama Achieves, including the Alabama Literacy Act, STEM, Career Technical Education, and workforce development.

During his tenure, high school graduation and college and career readiness rates have increased with Alabama’s high school seniors of 2020 graduating at 90.6 percent. More than 87 percent of Alabama high school students are currently enrolled in at least one career technical education class and Alabama has been ranked first in the South-Central Region for workforce development in 2022.

Prior to being named State Superintendent, he served as Executive Director of the School Superintendents of Alabama, the professional association for local school system executives, for eight years. He began his career as a high school science teacher and then taught middle school science, where he discovered a passion for middle school education that continues to inform and influence his perspectives to this day. He went on to serve as principal of Kitty Stone Elementary School and then Superintendent of Jacksonville City School System.