WHEELING - Businessman Mike Ferns Sr. believes the future is bright for new college graduates willing to invest the necessary time in their careers.
Ferns, a Wheeling resident, was awarded an honorary degree Saturday during Wheeling Jesuit University's 37th commencement ceremony at McDonough Center. A total of 385 students walked the aisle, representing the third largest graduating class since 1995.
"It takes a lot of hard work to be successful," Ferns said. "If you want to succeed, you have to commit."
ADDRESSES GRADUATES — A total of 385 students graduated Saturday during ceremonies in Wheeling Jesuit University’s McDonough Center. - Jocelyn King
"There are always a lot of opportunities. You just have to be willing to put in the hours. It can't be just a 40-hour a week job. It has to be more like an 80-hour week."
Ferns is the owner of A&B Auto Sales in Benwood. He attended West Liberty University as an education major, but said he left college to pursue a career in the automobile business.
His son, Delegate Ryan Ferns, D-Ohio, however, holds a doctorate in physical therapy from Wheeling Jesuit, prompting the elder Ferns to become active with the university's Cardinal Athletic Club - the university's fundraising program for intercollegiate athletics.
Valedictorian for the 2013 graduating class was Rebecca Olsavsky, a graduate of The Linsly School and a resident of Washington, Pa. She majored in professional communications, and has enrolled in West Virginia University's Integrated Marketing Communications Program starting in the fall.
"It's been a really fun time," Olsavsky said of her time at Wheeling Jesuit. "It was gone fast, and I'm sad to leave. But I'm happy to start a new phase of school."
The guest speaker for the graduation was the Rev. Greg Boyle, S.J., founder of Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles. His organization is believed to be the largest gang-intervention group of its kind, providing free services and job training for those previously involved in the Los Angeles gang scene.
"No one does more tattoo removals than we do," Boyle told the students, adding that he could assist them if they had second thoughts about that Cardinal tattoo they just had placed on their bodies.
He quoted Martin Luther King when telling them Wheeling Jesuit is "not the place you go to, it's the place you go from."
"You go from here with a vision of wanting the world to look differently than it was ....," Boyle said. "Time presses on to fulfillment, and it will not disappoint. If it delays, wait for it."
Area Wheeling Jesuit graduates include:
Steubenville: Kelly Paolisso, Nicholas Vogagis, Jessica A. Harlan, Ms. Marlo J. Fletcher, Kevin D. Joyce, Ann M. Campbell, Michael W. Petrella, Shawna Jo Allietta, Stephanie R. Ellenberger, Carly L. Rauch.
Burgettstown: Samantha Jo Betlem.
Wellsburg: Ingrid Elaine Loy, Abby Gail Phillips
Weirton: James P. Smith, Alexis R. Hotlosz, Stewart L. Jones, Amanda Nicole Kirkbride, Jaime L. Marnich.
Smithfield: Philip D. Bliss, Jr.
Windsor Heights: Samuel Z. Henderson.
Wintersville: Barbara L Banfield, Renae A. Dailey, Janet M. Wenger.
Tiltonsville: Darla K Kinkus-Kuri, Ethan K. Connors.
New Cumberland: Debra J. Gosney, Matthew R. Harvey.
Colliers: Mrs. Ashley Nicole Davis.
Brilliant: Callie J. Clark.
Toronto: Margaret J. Boka, Mary M. Saccareccia.