Tyler Keyser didn’t feel like the best choice for a graduation speaker when Hastings College President Travis Feezell called to ask him to speak at this year’s ceremony.
“I was unemployed, and had no idea what I was going to do next,” Keyser said.
Keyser, a 2009 graduate of Hastings College, was the commencement speaker on Saturday at Lynn Farrell Arena.
After graduating, he served as chief of staff to the CEO of a large, multi-state nonprofit based in New York City. Keyser then attended Harvard Law School and graduated in 2014. He practiced corporate law at an international law firm for four years before leaving the firm.
Keyser said he ended up on the wrong path in his career and he needed a change.
“It ended up 10 years later and I was deeply unhappy,” he said. “I took a leap of faith and left my job to stumble around.”
He later joined the staff of a political campaign where he has responsibilities in the policy and political departments.
Keyser said he thought he was doing everything right and being deliberate in his decisions, but life doesn’t come with a step-by-step guide like the syllabus presented at the beginning of each college class.
He implored the graduates to be intentional about their upcoming decisions in life and to use their now-honed critical thinking skills to make those choices.
He also encouraged them to be more involved in their communities.
“Don’t let my regret become your regret,” Keyser said. “I wish I was involved in the community more. Your communities need your bright minds and compassionate hearts.”
He noted that graduates came from 18 states and four countries. Some are the first generation of their families to finish college. Others come from long-standing traditions of higher education.
He said to make it through to graduation is an accomplishment in and of itself, as two-thirds of adult Americans don’t have a college degree.
About 212 students Hastings College students graduated with bachelor’s degrees on Saturday and another 13 earned master’s degrees in teaching.
Among those celebrating the graduation ceremony was Geena Piper, a biology major from Norfolk, who was selected by her peers to speak at the commencement.
Piper served as Student Association president, resident assistant, leader in the Alpha Phi sorority and InterGreek Council, and a member of the Student Health Advisory Council.
In April, she was named recipient of the Bronco Award, Hastings College’s highest non-academic award for students making outstanding campus contributions
Piper said it felt surreal to have gotten to graduation day. She reflected on her first days on campus and meeting roommates for the first time. Little did she know that many of the strangers she met in those first weeks would be among her best friends now.
She talked about the Hastings College phrase, “It’s a great day to be a Bronco,” and invented an acronym to share her thoughts on being a Bronco.
B stands for being all in, or getting involved with the community. She explained students were encouraged to attend campus activities.
“Hastings College made it very difficult, and a little uncomfortable to be a bystander,” she said. “Being involved wasn’t an option, but an expectation at Hastings College.”
R is for responsibility, which students learned as part of their studies. As many were living on their own for the first time, they were expected to be responsible for their actions.
O is for original, which she described as a spirit of creativity fostered at the college.
N is for napping, an activity she will miss as she heads out to the real world.
C is for community, in both the faculty, other students and alumni.
“When we walked onto campus, none of us realized the amazing community we walked into,” Piper said.
O is for obligation to the world outside themselves.
“Hastings College has taught that every day there are opportunities to help others,” she said. “The things Hastings College has taught us will remain with us our entire lives.”