Sir Isaac Newton once wrote a line in a letter that has been famously paraphrased as “If I see further, it is because I stand on the shoulders of giants.” Today I graduate with this phrase utmost in my mind. The giants whose shoulders I stand on to get where I am today are foremost my grandmothers and my parents, who did not have the opportunities I have been afforded, yet with diligent fortitude strived to ensure that their children’s lives would be better than theirs was. The giants who have lifted me up are also my son, who sacrificed right along with me, the exemplary professors who have guided me along the way, and my supervisors in PR who believed in me.
I had thought, when I first began classes at Vol State, that I would be alone in a sea of much younger adults, quietly enduring the two years it takes to get to the finish line. I’m not sure why I thought ‘quiet’ was something even possible for me, and most of the younger adults didn’t seem to care as much as I did that I was old enough to be their mother. The teachers and the staff here genuinely care about their students and go above and beyond to help them succeed. I was not alone.
If someone would have offered me a diploma two years ago I would have gladly accepted it and thought myself lucky to have skipped the experience. I would have been so wrong. It’s not the degree but the experience that has improved and advanced me, and the shining example of all who have walked beside me along the way.
Thank you, Vol State, for the experiences and opportunities you have given me. I will miss you.
Gaynell Buffinet Payne