UNION — The graduates of USC Union were urged to “do some good” with the education they received during their time at the university and to always keep the faith while giving hope to others.
More than 60 graduates received degrees during USC Union Commencement Exercises Saturday evening, but before they did they listened to the commencement speaker urge them to continue their education and to put it to good use in the surface of others.
The commencement speaker was William “Bill” Comer, a Union native and 1973 graduate of Union High School.
Comer obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from Wofford College in 1977. He then went on to obtain a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration in Accounting from the University of South Carolina in 1982. He is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and a Fellow in the Healthcare Financial Management Association.
Comer has over 30 years of accounting, finance, general management and board experience in domestic and international companies that are publicly-held, privately-owned, and not-for-profit. He is highly regarded as a mentor, “change agent” and has built his reputation on a commitment to team building and high ethical standards.
Comer said that serving as a commencement speaker was great honor for him as a native of Union.
“It is a special privilege for me since I was born and reared in Union, and graduated from Union High School,” Comer said. “I loved growing up in Union, in this part of South Carolina, and would not trade that experience for anything. Union is my ‘home,’ and, because of that, I feel a special relationship with folks from neighboring counties of Cherokee, Laurens, Newberry, Spartanburg, and York.”
Comer said that “USC Union is especially important to me, recalling his father’s role in its establishment in 1965 as a member of the SC House of Representatives.
“As a child, I remember his spending countless hours at night on the telephone speaking with community leaders who were involved in the USC-U initiative, including T.D. Truluck, for whom this gymnasium is named,” Comer said.
Comer also reviewed the progress of USC Union since its founding, pointing out that next year is its 50th anniversary.
“It is wonderful to see how USC-U has progressed over the years, and the quality of education and caliber of students that it is producing,” Comer said. “In 2015, under the leadership of Dean Colbert, USC-U will celebrate its 50th anniversary. I have been impressed with Dean Colbert’s enthusiasm and passion for USC Union, and, under her leadership, I am sure this institution will continue to prosper for many years.”
“While growing up in Union and in this part of South Carolina, the values of a good education and good character were instilled in me by my family and this community,” Comer said. “These values have been vital to my personal and professional growth, and to any successes that I have achieved. I would like to share a couple of these with you.
“From USC-U, you have a received a good educational foundation,” he said. “I encourage you to continue your education. Take as many courses as you can in order to find areas in which you excel and have a passion. And, along with any professional degree, including business administration or nursing, get a broad education by including a healthy dose of Liberal Arts courses, including English, Psychology, Sociology, Art and Music Appreciation, History; and Religion.”
Comer spoke about his life since graduation and the impact the education he received has had on it.
“Since graduating from USC, I have had experiences that I never dreamed of,” Comer said. “I have been in leadership positions with an accounting firm, physician groups, hospitals, law firms, pharmaceutical companies, and a specialty health company. I have worked with two individuals who went on to become CFOs (chief financial officers) of the Bank of America. I have worked with well respected, nationally known CEOs (chief executive officers). I have been in charge of complex business situations, including bankruptcies; fraud audits; mergers and acquisitions; restructurings; turnarounds; and business start ups.
“In addition to being a good accountant, it has been essential for me to know how to (a) write well, (b) understand and respect cultural differences, and (c) appreciate the perspectives of others,” he said. “It provided a humanistic dimension. A combined professional and Liberal Arts education has helped me to look past the numbers; think outside the box; be receptive to alternative solutions; see gray, when other accountants see only black and white; establish rapport with others and put people at ease in stressful situations; listen and empathize; and understand that I am dealing not only with financial matters and numbers, but with people’s lives and families.”
Comer reminded the graduates of the importance of good character and high ethical standards and encouraged them to put their education to good use.
“In all you do, strive to develop a reputation for good character, and high ethical standards,” Comer said. “Exercise truthfulness, honesty, and a courageous devotion to doing the right thing. This is absolutely essential. It is an aspiration that should be ahead of all others.
“I encourage you to ‘do some good’ with your education, even if it is to send a well written note to someone who is sick, or to simply ‘listen,” he said. “The good deeds that you do with your education will outlive you and will make a meaningful difference. Always have faith and give others hope.”