DUBOIS – Clad in caps and gowns, eager to transfer their tassels from right to left in a gesture demonstrating their accomplishments, members of the Penn State DuBois Class of 2013 listened to a campus professor offer one final piece of advice before they would make the transition from students to alumni.
Penn State DuBois Distinguished Professor of English Richard Kopley offered the commencement address Saturday in the campus gymnasium. His message to the graduates spoke of the importance of encouragement. He extended his own encouragement to them, and asked them to always remember the significance of positive words.
“When I started to think about this talk, I wondered what I could offer,” Kopley said. “You students have worked hard in your classes, and you have attained your degrees. How could I be helpful? Perhaps, I thought, I could offer encouragement for the future. Yes, that was it. That was what I could do, building on the encouragement of your family, your teachers, your friends. Encouragement, it seems to me, is so precious, so vital, so needed. And even if one fails, encouragement lives on.”
Through stories of his own, personal experiences and by citing examples from literature, Kopley illustrated the importance of encouragement in life and in success. He noted its worth on both sides; in giving encouragement, and in getting it.
“It seems to me that encouragement is the ice cream flavor we can never get enough of,” said Kopley. “Perhaps the greatest piece of encouragement I ever heard came from a senior scholar, David S. Reynolds, when I was a young faculty member. ‘Richard.’ he said, taking me aside after he’d given a talk; ‘I want you to know something: I believe in your work.’ What better thing could he have said? I have been living on those five words for many years now. And when I can, I pass them on.”
Kopley then took the opportunity to do just that, and passed on those encouraging words. “And so, as I congratulate you graduates, I encourage you. I know some of you from English class, and while I don’t know others of you, I know your wonderful teachers and therefore have a considerable idea of how much you have achieved,” he said. “So, I’m confident in saying to all of you graduates, ‘I believe in your work.’ ”
Kopley began teaching at Penn State DuBois in 1983. He studied English at Brandeis University in Massachusetts. He earned his master’s in English at the Teachers College at Columbia University, and eventually a Ph.D. from the State University of New York at Buffalo where he also taught while completing his degree.
In addition to teaching, Kopley is an internationally known author and literary scholar with expertise in classic American Literature. He has published books on his research into the literary works of renowned American writers Nathaniel Hawthorn and Edgar Allan Poe. He has also had short stories and other pieces of his personal work published in international anthologies, and has contributed to numerous journals and magazines as an expert on Poe’s work. He speaks regularly about his research at national and international conferences.
Assistant Professor of Education Pamela Hufnagel served as campus marshal for commencement ceremonies.
Chancellor Melanie Hatch conferred associate and baccalaureate degrees to the graduates, and offered her own words of encouragement.
“Earning a Penn State degree is no small feat. It has taken hard work and dedication. You’ve come to class, studied extensively, and likely sacrificed other things in your life to make time for your academics,” Hatch said.
“Today is the day when we celebrate the fruits of that sacrifice and the benefits that it will bring you from this day forward. You are now equipped with an education that will help you to thrive in both a career and in life. Your hard work has paid off. You can be very proud of the work you put into earning the degree that you’ll take home today. We certainly are proud of every one of you.”