Graduates called to serve

Robert Lane, CEO of Deere & Co., speaks to graduates of St. Ambrose University about giving service to others during the commencement speech May 11 at the i Wireless Center in Moline, Ill. Lane and Jeanne Wonio, left, both received honorary degrees during the ceremony from the Davenport university.

By Anne Marie Amacher

MOLINE, Ill. — Being of service to others was the central message delivered to graduates at the May 8 spring commencement of St. Ambrose University.

In her charge to graduates, Sister Joan Lescinski, CSJ, president of Davenport-based St. Ambrose, said to make a commitment of service and give back to the community.

“Being an Ambrosian is always a part of who you are,” she told the Class of 2009.

Seven-hundred diplomas were conferred to graduates with bachelor, master and doctorate degrees. John Collins and Delores Wellman were honored for distinguished serve at St. Ambrose. Robert Lane, CEO of Deere & Co., based in Moline, and Jeanne Wonio, a pro-life advocate from Davenport, were awarded honorary degrees during the commencement ceremony at the i wireless Center in Moline.


Lane also was commencement speaker. He saluted the students for their efforts in earning degrees while keeping up with various responsibilities.

“No doubt, many of you are graduating with substantial debt and after great personal sacrifice. You should feel an incredible sense of accomplishment.”

He told the graduates he wanted to talk about choices at this stage of their lives and channeling their energies as they progress along life’s journey.

He assured the graduates that although finding employment is difficult at this time, the benefit of the liberal arts education is not wasted. “I’m confident that over time, you’ll also be able to put to good use the valuable skills and lessons gained at St. Ambrose.

“Please recall one simple phrase that captures the richness and complexity of what you’ve learned here. That is: life is a calling of service to others. It is in caring for others that you’ll also find your own life enriched.”

Giving of services isn’t just during spare time, Lane noted. “Serving others encompasses more than volunteering for worthy projects or writing a check to commendable organizations. While those actions are vitally important, you must first recognize that your daily activities can be embedded with service to others. This starts with an appreciation of the God-given dignity and worth of each individual — and how you incorporate this attitude throughout every hour of your day, whether working for pay or not.”

Lane gave examples of how his work at Deere & Co. has given him the opportunity to travel around the world. He told them he looks “in the eye of each employee and customer” he comes in contact with. He shakes the hand of each — from the janitor sweeping a factory floor in China, to the Brazilian landowner buying a fleet of combines for his 2,500-acre farm.

One example Lane gave was from a trip to India. “Someone asked me why I needed to take the time to shake hands with dozens of poor farmers who couldn’t read or write, let alone ever afford a John Deere tractor. What my colleague didn’t understand was that it wasn’t about ‘needing’ to do anything — it was about recognizing that these farmers, like you and me, were created in God’s image and had inherent dignity.

“Remembering each individual’s dignity and worth is the first step toward service to others.”

For your generation, access to a shrinking globe affords one of the greatest opportunities for service, Lane said. “Thanks to technology breakthroughs in communications among other things, you are much more likely to be working with and making friends with Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims — even people of no particular faith.

“Embrace these opportunities! That will help you view the world through different lenses while enhancing your understanding and compassion toward others. Plus, you’ll have fun doing it.

“Giving of oneself is more than a responsibility. It is a privilege. It is evidence of your faith. And when you submit to something larger than yourself, you will realize your true potential, finding real happiness and fulfillment through service to others.”

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