Delegate Terry Kilgore offered advice to the 270 graduates of The University of Virginia’s College at Wise, and peppered his guidance with oldies tunes that were hits during his student days at UVa-Wise.
Kilgore, who graduated from what was then Clinch Valley College in 1983 and earned a law degree from the College of William and Mary’s law school, said his four years at Wise developed his leadership skills, allowed him to form lifelong friendships and deepened his pride for his Southwest Virginia home.
He recalled hard fought intramural contests, his term as Student Government Association president, dorm life in Crockett Hall, and the weekly Thursday night dances that pitted disco fans against rock and roll diehards. The dances and the music carried lessons that served graduates of that era well. He shared those lessons during the May 6 Commencement 2017 exercise at the David J. Prior Convocation Center, a facility he helped fund through his work in the Virginia House of Delegates.
“While I was thinking about what wise words of wisdom I wanted to bestow upon you, I realized for me if all goes back to the ’80s,” Kilgore said. “What a time to be on campus! Crockett Hall was then just for guys, intramurals were the thing, and most importantly, every single Thursday night there was a dance.”
Kilgore played bits of the song “Funky Town,” and said the battle on campus was over the music. Disco won the battle, but rock and roll won the war, he explained.
“There’s a lesson here,” he said. “Don’t ever give up on the classics. There will be fads, there will be movements, but in the end, certain views have staying power…just like rock and roll.”
He gave the Class of 2017 a gentle warning about the power of social media to the tune of “Jenny 867-5309.” He explained that the lack of phones in dorm rooms back then and a lack of mobile phones gave those in the 1980s some privacy.
“We can find out so much more about Jenny today than her phone number,” Kilgore said as he cautioned about posting pictures that parents and future employers would not want to see. Be careful what information you give out to someone.”
He played snippets from “Wake Me Up Before You GoGo” and “Lean on Me” as he said friends and roommates continue to be people that they can rely on. “Magic,” “Living on a Prayer,” and “All Night Long” are reminders that students actually had to work and not procrastinate to earn good grades. “Papa Don’t Preach” illustrates that the experience earned in a classroom is often more important than picking the right major. “The Eye of the Tiger” shows the value of competition.
“During the ’80s, everyone was not a winner,” Kilgore said. “We didn’t have safe spaces. We had intramurals, and we came to win. We knew who won and who lost. We learned how to deal with those losses and how to deal with the wins. That’s an important lesson to carry forward in life. There are winners and there are losers. Understanding how to grow from each will define your life.”
Kilgore told the graduates their education has given them tools to find a job, but he said the work world would be a different experience.
“The real world is about to hit you,” he said as “9 to 5” played. “Just keep working hard and the money side will work out,” he said to the song “Money for Nothing.”
The working world requires planning, and he played “Morning Train,” especially for graduates who will work in Northern Virginia or Hampton Roads.
“This College has been an important part of your life,” he said. “It’s equally important that you not forget about UVa-Wise,” he said as “Don’t You Forget About Me” played. “Whether you live in this region or whether you live outside the region, it’s important to help UVa-Wise and this College succeed. I’ve tried to do that by representing this region and this College in the General Assembly in Richmond. I hope you will represent this region in your job, your position and in many other ways as you move forward.”
Kilgore applauded the graduates for their accomplishments and for their decision to attend UVa-Wise.
“As I look back to where you are sitting—one—yes ’80s song played in my mind,” he said as “I’ve Had the Time of My Life” played. “May God richly bless you. Thank you and good luck.”
About Delegate Terry Kilgore
Kilgore has served in the Virginia House of Delegates for 24 years. While in the state legislature, Kilgore has helped UVa-Wise grow. He was instrumental in legislation that changed the College’s name from Clinch Valley College to The University of Virginia’s College at Wise. He garnered funding for the new library, science building renovations, other building renovations, and for the David J. Prior Convocation Center construction.
photo by Tim Cox