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Baseball Coach Ray Tanner addresses December graduates.
Baseball Coach Ray Tanner addresses December graduates.

Enjoy the journey, Coach Ray Tanner tells graduates

The graduates receiving their degrees Monday (Dec. 13) from the University of South Carolina may feel like they have reached a destination. But commencement speaker Ray Tanner, coach of USC’s national championship baseball team, urged them to look at the day as a fresh start.

“Whatever direction you go, enjoy the journey,” Tanner said. “It’s OK to set new goals, focus on them and see them through, but as you roll up your sleeves and go to work, do so with your head on a swivel. As a young professional, I put my head down and plowed forward only to learn later that the beauty of life is appreciation of the journey. I encourage you to live your life as a journey, rather than a series of destinations.”

The December commencement ceremonies at the Colonial Life Arena celebrated the accomplishments of more than 2,500 degree candidates from Columbia and the seven regional campuses. Former Columbia Mayor Bob Coble, who earned undergraduate and law degrees at Carolina and who served two decades as mayor of South Carolina’s capital city, was awarded an honorary doctorate of laws. Norman J. Arnold, a Columbia businessman, philanthropist and public health advocate, received an honorary doctorate of humane letters.

Tanner, whose team brought home the university’s first national championship in a men’s team sport, spoke of the importance of understanding the need to accept and learn from failure. He drew upon the words of the late Jim Valvano, the basketball coach and athletic director at North Carolina State University, who hired Tanner to be the head baseball coach when he was just 27 years old. When Valvano, who was stricken with cancer, received the Arthur Ashe Courage and Humanitarian Award, he encouraged everyone to laugh, to think and to cry each day.

“I must confess that I don’t have a quick trigger on crying, although I might have cried if Jackie Bradley had struck out in the 11th inning against Oklahoma in Game 3,” he said. “There were tears of joy after Scott Wingo touched home plate against UCLA in the final game.”

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