Approximately 10,000 people gathered in Stephenville Friday night and Saturday morning to attend two commencements at Tarleton State University.

These two events were the mark of success to the graduating students, their parents, relatives and friends. Wisdom Gymnasium was packed Friday night as more than 100 students received master’s degrees and 12 were awarded doctorates. On Saturday morning Tarleton’s Memorial Stadium was filled to capacity to witness the conferring of degrees on about 700 undergraduates. Monday night found additional degrees being awarded at the Tarleton Central Texas campus in Killeen.

These three commencements and thousands of other graduation exercises across the nation represent the first step for many young persons in finding employment. Education is one of the primary keys in locating the “opportunity door.” A university degree will open many doors that will otherwise not open without the degree in hand.

Another key in finding a job is personal contacts, something this writer can attest to. Immediately following my graduation from Baylor University in May, 1950, I went to work at The Texarkana Gazette and Daily News. I had majored in journalism with minors in English and history. I also had obtained a teacher’s certificate. The job at Texarkana was not what I really wanted - I desired to teach; however, a job is a job and I needed employment. It was a step in the right direction.

A classmate, Jim Hale, who had graduated the previous quarter, was working on the Texarkana newspaper as the news editor. One weekend he was visiting on the Baylor campus. He advised Bob Burke, another journalism buddy, and me about two vacancies on the Texarkana newspaper - one as a reporter and the other in display advertising. Burke chose the reporter’s job at $35 per week, while I opted for the advertising position at $50 per week.

Shortly after Burke and I arrived for work in early June, the newspaper’s printers went on strike. This presented a real problem for the newspaper’s management in getting the morning and afternoon editions off the presses on time. Printers were brought in from over the nation to fill the places of the striking printers. The substitute printers were called “rat printers.” Often times when the “rat printers” ventured out for lunch or supper, they would go in groups. The striking printers, who were walking the picket line in front of the newspaper office, would often dangle a piece of cheese tied to a string in front of the “rat printers.” This often created scuffles and fights between the two factions. The police would be summoned to calm the disturbance, and arrests were occasionally made.

My stay at Texarkana was brief because that fall I began a 34-year teaching and administrative career in the public schools and higher education. My first teaching job was at the Brooks County ISD in Falfurrias, TX. This would eventually lead to teaching at Abilene High School and working as a reporter at The Abilene Reporter-News. My next stop would be at Tarleton State College as Director of Public Information, later serving as Registrar and Dean of Students and still later being the Dean of Student Personnel Services. My final job was Professor of Educational Administration at East Texas State University (now Texas A&M University-Commerce). Each job change was an advancement. Without an education, my job opportunities would have been greatly limited.

The moral of this story is this - success is primarily based on education, motivation, hard work and personal contacts.

To the 2008 graduates, whether you are completing your high school education or receiving a degree from a university, do your best and success will crown your achievements. Remember the word, work, is a “good” four-letter word.

Dr. Chilton, a retired educator/journalist, lives in Stephenville. He was a member of the administrative staff at Tarleton State College, 1954-1966. He occasionally writes for this newspaper.