PHENIX CITY—Dr. Larry E. DiChiara, superintendent of the Phenix City School System, told Troy University graduates to rely on determination and discipline in order to achieve future success.
DiChiara delivered the keynote address during the fall commencement ceremony for the Phenix City Campus on Saturday, Dec. 18. About 250 students received graduate and undergraduate degrees during the 2 p.m. ceremony inside the Columbus Civic Center.
A former basketball coach who led the Loachapoka High School varsity boys’ team to championship wins in 1988 and 1989, DiChiara said he often told his players that winning required a determined “ugly-face” defense.
“If you are willing to make that ugly face and stop the other team from scoring, you will win championships,” DiChiara said.
He said success in college and beyond requires similar determination.
“There were times when you had to grit your teeth and get it done,” DiChiara said. “Be prepared to make [that face] a lot more because it is much tougher out here than it was in this university.”
Earning a degree required discipline, Dichiara said, and he urged graduates to continue relying on that trait in the future.
“When I look out here I don’t have any doubt that many of you had other things that needed to be done, but you got that paper done and you made it to class … and that is an important lesson,” he said.
Recalling his own impoverished childhood—during which his family lived for two years in a hotel room—DiChiara credits education with allowing him and his brothers to find success in later life.
“We live in this incredible place called America where we get to decide the kind of life we want, and it starts with education,” DiChiara said.
DiChiara has been superintendent of the Phenix City schools for seven years. He is also an adjunct instructor at the Phenix City Campus, teaching courses in education and educational leadership.