Mississippi State alumna and Los Angeles Dodgers executive Janet Marie Smith believes hard work, passionate conviction and unwavering courage are the skills that will help MSU's Class of 2013 achieve success.
Smith, keynote speaker at the university's commencement ceremonies Friday and Saturday, emphasized those ideals again and again. As an internationally recognized baseball stadium architect, Smith knows how a college degree can offer opportunity.
She completed her architecture degree at MSU in 1981 and her master's in urban planning from City College of New York. Smith has designed stadiums for the Atlanta Braves, the Boston Red Sox and the Baltimore Orioles. She currently works for the Dodgers as senior vice president of planning and development.
To take advantage of opportunities, however, graduates must be willing to work hard, stick to their principles and remain strong even in the face of adversity, she said.
"I hope that you'll find inspiration, comfort and maybe some solace that you don't have to conquer the world in order to contribute to humanity," Smith said. "All you really need to do to give back is to find something that you love to do."
She explained that she wasn't the best student academically, but her strong work ethic, her desire to succeed and her unflinching determination to achieve her goals took Smith to the places she wanted to go and gave her the opportunity to do the things she wanted to do.
"You don't just wind up with great successes in life, either personally or professionally," she said. "You create it for yourself by what you are able to contribute and by your willingness to make everything a learning experience.
"It is important to keep a sense of humor, for the worst situations can make the best locker room tales. And it is important to keep things in perspective -- for nothing is forever. Not the good. Not the bad."
In addition to more than 2,400 degree awards conferred at the commencement services, former Gov. William F. Winter and Madison architect Robert V.M. Harrison received honorary doctoral degrees.
Winter accepted an honorary doctorate in public service at the Friday ceremony. Not only did he serve as governor from 1980-1984, his encouragement and leadership ensured the education reform package including public kindergarten passed through Mississippi legislature.
He currently provides special counsel to the Jones Walker firm's Government Relations Practice Group in Jackson.
Harrison received an honorary doctorate in science during Saturday's exercises. He helped establish MSU's School of Architecture 40 years ago, taught at MSU for 13 years and continues to support the architecture program through a lecture series endowment, gifts for scholarships, fund-raising assistance and facilities that support architecture students' study.
To learn more about MSU, see www.msstate.edu.