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George N. Ricks Spring Commencement Speaker College of Education and College of Nursing and Health Sciences Posted: 5/26/15

George N. Ricks Spring Commencement Speaker College of Education and College of Nursing and Health Sciences


George N. Ricks

First of all, I would like to thank Dr. Keck for inviting me to speak with you this evening.  It is my distinct honor to be in front of you tonight as you bring this part of your life’s journey to a successful conclusion;……. only to begin anew tomorrow with new challenges and most importantly of all….new opportunities.  Dean Walker, Dean Weitman and their respective faculties have no doubt prepared you well for those new endeavors.

Rest easy in knowing that I am not going to stand up here and talk about me.  Tonight is about you!  If I were to give a title to my address to you today, it would be SERVICE and the SQUARE ROOT OF 9!

Unlike another commencement exercise you participated in a few years ago when you were young and knew it all, this one tonight is no doubt much different for many of you.  The journey you have taken to get here is probably a little different for each and every one of you.  Some may have known exactly what you wanted to do in college and sailed through in three or four years.  Others may not have been real sure and the four year plan turned into a five, or six year plan.  Many of you may have interrupted your college career, as I did and served your country for a while.  I thank you for your service and am glad you are here tonight.  There are also many of you out there that may have started out with a plan but life got in the way.  The fact that you are here now speaks to your determination and resolve to achieve your goals in life regardless of age or the many challenges of life. 

There are also many here tonight accepting advanced degrees that clearly demonstrate a desire to stretch and grow their skills.

No matter what degree you are receiving tonight, all of you have several significant things in common.  Look around you tonight.  There are family and friends here tonight that may have a hard time expressing just how proud they are of you and your accomplishments.  As a parent, I can tell you that there is no sacrifice too great for your children.  This night is for them too.  Maybe it would be appropriate to give them a round of applause.

Secondly and perhaps most importantly of all, each and every one of you by virtue of the career path you have chosen share a bond of service. 

The greatest person to ever walk the face of this earth was at times known as a Rabonni, or teacher and/as a healer.  By your career choices, you have chosen to serve humankind as an educator or a healthcare professional.  I can honestly think of no greater calling than one who dedicates their life in service to others by teaching and healing.

I would also say to you that teaching and healing are not mutually exclusive.  In fact they are joined together to form an attitude of caring and service to everyone you will encounter in your professional lives.  I challenge you to find me an educator who has never had to heal a broken spirit to uncover the inner child that yearns to learn….not likely they exist.  Or, find me a health professional that wouldn’t rather teach someone to be healthy than to treat the illness.  You all are perfect examples of servanthood….putting the interests and needs of others before your own.  You all will make a mark on the world and leave it a better place.

There is a concept out there known as “street cred” and I know I promised I would not talk about me, but please indulge me for just a couple minutes.  As a school board trustee for many years I have had the privilege to serve not only a great community but to work on behalf of great teachers and innovative educational leaders who firmly believed that every action that they take should result in a better outcome for each and every one of our students….who in their mind…are their kids.  I’m so old, I have seen kids who graduated from our school district return as teachers, perhaps in some way to pay forward their thanks and appreciation to the teachers that taught them along the way.  I have no doubt that everyone within the sound of my voice tonight can think of their favorite teacher in elementary school, high school and beyond.  Maybe one of those teachers is the reason some of you are receiving your degree in education tonight.

I also firmly believe God has a plan for us all.  Don’t you wish sometimes however, that His voice was louder and clearer? One more piece of that plan fell into place for me nine years ago when I was asked to join the board of The Methodist Healthcare Ministries, or MHM as it is known. 

Our mission is simple:

Serving Humanity to Honor God.

Five simple words that add up to a powerful concept of helping, teaching and healing.  In 1955 the Southwest Conference of the Methodist Church chartered a single hospital in San Antonio, Texas.  Over the next few decades, the system grew and through a unique partnership in 1995 The Methodist Healthcare Ministries was formed and became a 50% owner of the Methodist Healthcare System in San Antonio which is now the largest healthcare provider in San Antonio and the surrounding counties. 

As a partner with the Methodist Healthcare System, MHM participates in the management and governance of the healthcare system.  This partnership also results in operating income that funds the work of MHM. 

Our mission is to reach out into our community primarily within the boundaries of the newly formed Rio Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church and help the underserved by direct services such as the Wesley Health and Wellness Center, The Bishop Dixon Clinic and school based clinics and also by funding partners who are serving the health and wellness needs of their communities.  In 2015 we have well over 100 funded partners including TAMIU College of Nursing and Health Sciences, a partner to help with the shortage of healthcare professionals.  Total funding for all partners is nearly $ 25 million for this year.

The Si Texas Project…that being “S I” as in YES Texas is a new initiative for MHM to partner with sub-grantees in counties along the Rio Grande who are best positioned to help with areas of high poverty, depression, diabetes, obesity and other associated health risk factors.  Once again TAMIU stepped forward and is one of the first round of seven sub-grantees for this program.  These grants and partnerships are perfectly aligned with our mission statement of Serving Humanity to Honor God.  As the Chair Elect of MHM, I would personally like to thank the leadership of TAMIU for taking on this important partnership role with MHM.

OK, so by now you may have forgotten the title of this address….SERVICE and the SQUARE ROOT of 9.  I am thinking you probably got the part about service.  You all are entering into a career of service to humanity. 

What is the square root of nine?  Although I was not a math major, I think I can figure it out and not sprain any of my fingers and without taking off my shoes and socks.

It is of course…..3.  I would propose to you that there are three sets of three words that may all be equally hard to say at one time or another in our lives.  I would also remind you of all those people around you tonight whether they be your friends, family, coworkers, fellow students, teachers….or whoever.  You are about to embark on the greatest adventure of your lives.  In speaking to everyone here tonight…. Search your heart and if you are so moved, do not let one or more of these three sets of three words go unsaid tonight.

              I am sorry.

              I forgive you.


              I love you.

The Greatest Teacher asked his Father to forgive us.  You deserve to go onto the next part of your lives, without the burden of a transgression, with the blessing of forgiveness and with the gift of love.

Godspeed to you all TAMIU class of 2015.  I leave you with a favorite quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson:

Do not follow where the path may lead.

Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail 

George N. Ricks

Spring Commencement Speaker

College of Education and College of Nursing and Health Sciences

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