Harris Smith, director of the Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film at Nebraska and executive director of the Nebraska Repertory Theatre, delivered the commencement address “Playing Your Role.” Paraphrasing the beginning of the “Seven Ages of Man” monologue from William Shakespeare’s comedy “As You Like It,” Harris told the graduates that they would be required to play many parts during their lives.
He encouraged them to be self-motivated throughout their professional careers. Pointing out the ever-changing job landscape, he listed some of the most desirable skills and values sought by employers as communication, organization, teamwork, adaptability and a positive attitude.
Harris said staying positive is especially important because everyone must overcome challenges and rejection.
“I am convinced that life is 10 percent what happens to me and 90 percent how I react to it,” he said. “You cannot control what happens to you in your life, but you can always control how you respond to it.”
Harris also urged the graduates to be part of something bigger than themselves – whether through prayer, meditation, hobbies, recreational activities or community service – to help keep them grounded spiritually, emotionally and physically.
“It challenges you to look beyond yourself and reminds you to look at the bigger picture,” he said.
He closed the address in show-biz fashion by telling the graduates to “break a leg.”
The graduates are from 40 countries, 33 states and the District of Columbia, and more than 90 Nebraska communities. Chancellor Ronnie Green presided over the ceremony, in which undergraduate and graduate degrees were awarded.
Earlier in the ceremony, Roy J. Long, a retired teacher and former Nebraska football player, received an honorary Doctor of Education. In addition to playing halfback and quarterback for the Huskers in the 1940s, the Blair native was a member of Phi Gamma Delta fraternity and ROTC. During World War II, he served with the 71st Infantry Division in Europe. He was part of the liberation of the Gunskirchen Lager concentration camp in Wels, Austria, in May 1945. Later that year, he was a guard for the American judges during the Nuremberg war trials.
He returned to Nebraska to finish his undergraduate and football careers, earning a Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education in 1947. He earned a Master of Arts from Nebraska in 1953 and completed 36 additional credit hours. After teaching in Fredonia, Kansas, and serving in the Korean War, he moved to Omaha, where he taught industrial arts at Omaha South High School from 1953 to 1974 and worked with special needs students from 1974 until his retirement in 1984.
The August graduating class earned 321 new graduate and professional degrees and 371 new baccalaureate degrees. The university has awarded 283,068 degrees since it was founded in 1869.