Calling himself "a part of the class of 2010," retiring Transylvania president Charles Shearer delivered the commencement address at the Lexington liberal arts college Saturday.
"We are graduating together," Shearer told the 240 graduates, the last departing class under his 27-year presidency. "It has taken me a lot longer than it has taken you."
Shearer urged the departing students to be flexible about their futures, careful in their decisions and cautious in their uses of instant communication.
William Pollard, vice president and dean of the college, called Shearer's "the longest ... and in many ways, the most remarkable tenure" of any Transylvania president in the school's 230-year history.
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Shearer was given an honorary doctor of humane letters degree by Transylvania. Also given an honorary degree was Transy alumnus Dr. Andrew Moore II, a Lexington plastic and reconstructive surgeon and founder of the non-profit organization Surgery on Sunday, which provides surgery for patients without health insurance. Moore has also worked to provide cleft palate surgery for needy children.
Shearer urged the graduates to "discover your passions, persevere, do not dwell on disappointment and never give up."
Shearer, 67, will retire at the end of July, when Transylvania's 25th president, Wall Street banker turned historian Owen Williams, 58, takes over.
Shearer said that over 27 years, "I can look back with the knowledge that I have given it my all."
He came to Transylvania in 1979 as vice president of finance, to balance the budget of a school that was struggling. Shearer became president in 1983, the school's fourth leader in two years.
During his presidency, Transylvania's enrollment grew from 655 to about 1,100, while the school's endowment surged from $32.8 million to a high of $144 million in 2007 and $100 million in 2010. The school built nine buildings and two athletics fields and initiated four major renovation projects during Shearer's tenure.
William T. Young Jr., chairman of the Transylvania board of trustees, said Shearer had helped lead the college beyond "a sagging enrollment," strained finances and "a tired physical plant."
"Charles has involved himself in every aspect of the Transylvania operations," Young said, from teaching and advising students to fund-raising.
Said Shearer: "I cherish the relationships I have had with my colleagues on the faculty and staff, and I love this wonderful institution and the class of 2010."