(Posted May 13, 2001)

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Bruce Davis, executive director of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, urged Juniata students to remain flexible concerning their career goals while using the education and training they received in college to help form a personal code of ethics as he delivered the commencement address at Juniata College's 123rd commencement ceremony held today.

The graduating class of 298 students was awarded bachelor of arts or bachelor of science degrees at the ceremony presided over by Juniata College President Thomas Kepple.

"The commencement address has historically functioned, or aspired to function, like a football halftime speech," Davis said. "It has the same unrealistic objectives of firing you up for what's ahead and recommending a better set of strategies from here on out than you've employed up to this point."

Juniata presented Davis with an honorary doctor of humane letters degree in recognition of his many contributions to the advancement of motion pictures and the preservation of film history. The college also awarded honorary doctor of humane letters degrees to Esther Doyle, professor emeritus of English at Juniata College; Earl Kaylor, professor emeritus of history at Juniata College; and Samuel Metz, an educator, dairy farmer and bank officer from Mifflintown and a 1939 graduate of Juniata College.

A 2001 Graduation Pledge of social and environmental responsibility was signed by 209 seniors, and the pledge states, "I pledge to explore and take into account the social and environmental consequences of any job I consider and will try to improve these aspects of any organizations for which I work." The 2001 Senior Class Gift is a contribution to a new entrance to be constructed along Moore Street, across from Good Hall.

Davis prepared the assembled graduates for his commencement address by saying, "Nobody spends twenty-odd years watching Academy Award ceremonies at close range without developing a fervent appreciation of the virtues of a short speech."

Davis, a 1965 graduate of Juniata College, started his career as an instructor at Juniata in 1968. At Juniata, he helped redesign the college's curriculum and became a specialist in "interdisciplinary" courses that involved students and faculty from a wide spectrum of academic departments.

In 1981, he was hired as executive administrator of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and became executive director of the Academy in 1989.
Davis, a native of Washington, D.C., earned a bachelor's degree in English from Juniata College in 1965 and earned a master's degree in English from the University of Maryland in 1968. Davis received the Juniata Alumni Achievement Award in 1990.

Davis described the world Juniata's graduates would enter upon graduation. "There are more than 6 billion of us on the planet now," he said. "Our cities are facing near-term and potentially devastating crises having to do with water supplies. The biotics, so to speak, are mutating faster than we can develop new antibiotics, so you might want to pencil in some interesting new plagues around the time you hit your mid-40s. And, we just may let you start that first job search of your life in a major recession. The most honest thing for me to do might just be to stand up and say 'Run away. Run away.' and sit back down."

But Davis, a former Juniata College faculty member, told his audience that gaining an education is only a beginning step on the pathway of a career. He cited the experiences of Juniata art professor Jack Troy and Juniata anthropology professor Paul Heberling, who both changed careers over the course of their working lives.

"There is a lot of life left for most of you," Davis said, "One of the most important things for you is to find something to do in it that is genuinely and steadily satisfying."

Davis told the crowd of nearly 2,000 guests of the college who attended the commencement program that students should try not to lock themselves into a single career option. "Stay supple -- it's OK to set your life objectives gradually," he said. "If your subconscious mind should start dropping clues over the next few years that you might find satisfaction in life doing something else entirely, try to be intellectually flexible enough to consider those clues carefully."

He also urged Juniata graduates to develop a personal moral code that is not focused on self-interest, using movies as an example. "Between the mid-1930s and the end of the 1960s, characters in movies practiced self-denial of one sort or another all the time," he said. "Everybody went to movies pretty regularly during most of that period and what they gradually acquired was an idea of what constituted honorable behavior in a wide variety of situations. People in movies didn't talk about why they were doing the right thing, they just did it. You will encounter situations on a regular basis that you will handle more comfortably if you've worked out your values ahead of time."

He concluded the address by telling Juniata's graduates that the values learned at Juniata College will be useful throughout their lives. "You are moving into a rapidly changing world with a lot of slippery slopes," he said. "Keep working on developing a set of standards that will allow you to keep your footing and your self-respect. Most of your courses are over now, but this one goes on for the rest of your life. And they never stop giving the tests."

Contact April Feagley at feaglea@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3131 for more information.