UTK Commencement Cites Learning, Humor, Service

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The importance of lifelong learning, humor and service was the message graduates received Friday at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville summer commencement.

About 1,350 graduate and undergraduate degrees were conferred in the ceremony at Thompson Boling Arena.

Dr. John H. Gibbons, former science advisor to the Clinton administration, touched on these and other points in an address to more than 750 degree candidates attending.

“There is so much we have learned, yet so much that we have left to learn,” Gibbons said. “Grow, stretch and use your knowledge, but remember that it is not complete yet.

“Learning is a lifelong process. It is an odyssey.”

Gibbons, a former UT-Knoxville physics professor, also advised graduates that laughter is an important part of dealing with life’s stress.

“Don’t forget humor in your life,” Gibbons said. “Storytelling, parables, teaching all are immensely enriched by humor. Humor can be a narrow escape from despair.”

Gibbons also emphasized the value of public service.

“Happiness is a paltry goal,” he said, quoting English playwright George Bernard Shaw. “The thing is to be used, spent, and squandered in the splendor of one of life’s consuming causes.

“Service is an important part of achieving the fulfillment in life we seek.”

Gibbons, the president’s science advisor from 1993 to 1998, is president-elect of Sigma Xi, the national scientific research society.