Surrounded by hundreds of friends and family members, more than 100 graduating seniors donned caps and gowns Saturday in front of historic Main Hall for Southern Virginia University’s 142nd commencement exercises.
Elder Robert C. Gay, a member of the Sixth Quorum of the Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was the commencement speaker and also received an honorary doctorate for his humanitarian service.
Elder Gay gave a passionate speech about the need to love people unconditionally, hearken to God’s promptings and lift others.
“Be humble enough to understand that the Lord does not need you to get the best job, or to be rich to help his Church and to help his sons and daughters in meaningful ways,” Elder Gay said. “His has always been and always will be a mission of going one by one.”
He suggested that graduating from college is more than a great accomplishment—it also is a call. For although the graduates will find jobs, raise families or attend graduate school, they never should forget to use the knowledge they have gained to do Heavenly Father’s will.
Elder Gay said that when he was preparing a speech for his own high school graduation his father advised him to tell the graduating seniors that if they wanted to succeed in this life, they needed to understand that duties comes before rights and that responsibility precedes opportunity.
In addition to his current ecclesiastical duties, Elder Gay is chief executive officer and managing director of Huntsman & Gay Capital Partners, LLC. His career also includes 16 years at Bain Capital and time at GE Capital and McKinsey & Company. He received a Ph.D. in business economics from Harvard University, where he also was an economics instructor.
In 2001 Elder Gay co-founded Unitus, a global micro-credit company, which is currently helping lift 9 million people across the world out of poverty. Elder Gay also funded KOMART, a micro-credit organization serving West Africa. He also serves on the boards of three global charities: Right to Play, Forever Young and Realizing the Dream.
“The underlying foundation of all truth is that each and every person in this world is divine in nature and dependent on a loving Father in Heaven for all that we have, and that every living being, born and unborn, is of infinite worth,” Elder Gay said.
He explained that to truly have a meaningful impact, we must hearken to the voice of God within us and boldly witness of God’s voice through our actions, words and deeds.
“It is no small feat to hearken,” Elder Gay said. “We are asked to listen to the voice of the God within us and to do it in God’s way even if it makes no sense to those around us or to the world in general.”