Escalante's real-life story of inspiring students of a poor inner city high school to excel in calculus, became a popular icon for teaching genius when it was made into the 1988 feature film "Stand and Deliver" starring Edward James Olmos. During the campus ceremony Escalante will be awarded an honorary doctor of humane letters degree in recognition of his teaching genius and the impact his teaching has had on the lives of his students.
After leaving Bolivia in 1964, Escalante worked at Burroughs Corporation while earning his BA in mathematics. Upon graduation, he took a considerable pay cut to become a high school math teacher in 1974. His teaching style combines energy, wit and personal commitment, with strict study requirements and attention to career paths. Against societal, social, class and peer barriers, Escalante's skill motivated students to see the study of calculus as not just attainable, but also desirable. Calculus test scores soared in his classes until his school was ranked seventh in the nation.
"Education is the ticket for success," Escalante told Wittenberg's 430 graduates. "When you talk about education, teachers are the critical point." To be effective, teachers only have to be able to instill passion for learning in their students, he said. "I believe anyone could do it."
In his address Escalante offered graduates the following advice and observations.
"The difference between yesterday's and today's college students (is) college students today they have to be more punctual. Why? Because if they don't get early to the parking lot, they won't find a space."
"One person has enthusiasm for 30 minutes, another has it for 30 days. But it is the person who has it for 30 years who makes success in life."
On the Future:
"The good times are just beginning for you. However I need to remind you that, whether you go on to continue you education in a graduate school, or plan to enter into the world of work, you need to be ready to work harder than you have ever worked before. It doesn't take most bosses very long to predict precisely which people will succeed and which won't. Pressure is a great energizer -- it's a great teacher, and you must learn to use that energy to your own advantage. Keep your sense of humor, sometimes it will be your only link with sanity."
"As you work hard in your professional, personal, and civic life, always remember these three values:
First, be committed to the never ending search for truth. Not someone's truth, but your own rigorous evolution of how things are. No matter how confusing, no mater how threatening, no matter how uncomfortable it might be.
Second have a vision of things, how they are, or how it should be. Never lose sight of your ideals. Reflect constantly on your values about God, life and other human beings, beauty, good and evil. Constantly refine your vision--what should be in light of your own growth and development.
Finally, have the discipline and commitment to do the hard, and often frustrating work of making your vision what it should be in real life and the lives of others whom you come in contact.."
At Commencement Wittenberg presented two additional honorary degrees. An honorary doctor of divinity was awarded to Rev. Charles Johnson Lundquist, who has led Lutheran congregations for 43 years, including 33 years as pastor at Bethel Lutheran Church in Youngstown, (Boardman) Ohio. He currently serves as part-time visitation pastor at Zion Lutheran Church in Cornersburg, Ohio.
At Wittenberg, Rev. Lundquist served more than 30 years on the Board of Directors, providing leadership on a number of task forces and study commissions. Wittenberg has previously honored Rev. Lundquist as an honorary alumnus (1985) and as an emeritus director (1992). He has also been honored by the state with the Ohio State Governor's Award for Community Service (1973).
Also receiving an honorary doctor of humane letters degree was be Jere B. Ratcliffe, chief scout executive for the Boy Scouts of America and a Springfield native. A Wittenberg alumnus (1959), Ratcliffe for five years has been the top professional leader of the Boy Scouts organization of 6,000 employees and 1.2 million adult volunteers, which serves 4.5 million youths nationwide.
Ratcliffe has been active in Scouting since his youth, continuing his involvement as a volunteer, and then as a career through the organization's district, regional and national offices. He also serves on the coordinating committees of the World Scout Organization and the World Foundation, which oversee activities of 140 scouting associations (serving 25 million young people) around the world.
Both he and his wife, the former Judy Jones, grew up in Springfield, Ohio. They currently live in Southlake, Texas.
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