Georgia Southern University President Dr. Brooks Keel gave graduating honor students sound advice Tuesday during the 29th Annual Honor Graduate Luncheon.
Hosted by Sea Island Bank at Statesboro First Baptist Church, the luncheon recognized 185 students from six Bulloch County high schools — Statesboro High, Southeast Bulloch High, Bulloch Academy, Trinity Christian School, Portal High School and Bible Baptist School.
Sea Island Bank President and CEO Wayne Akins welcomed students and guests before the meal of fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, green beans, layered salad, corn, rolls and cake.
He spoke to students about the gifts that brought them to their success.
"What got you here is one of three things," he said. "The gift of knowledge ... where (education) comes easy; the gift of perseverance and determination, where you have to work hard and study hard ... or the combination of these gifts."
He encouraged students to take advantage of their gifts. "We want to remind you of those gifts and encourage you to use them."
Keel told students he knew they would be "bombarded with advice" and offered "words of wisdom for what it's going to be like to be a successful college student."
Calling high school graduation a "rite of passage," he reminded students they would be leaving the "safety of your parents' homes and their wallets."
There are seven steps to success, he said.
One is to "Develop your time management skills," he said. Then, "Develop enthusiasm for reading and learning. Learning will never end, and in college you'll be reading more than you ever have in your life.
"Take advantage of meeting others," he said. College offers opportunities to meet people of different cultures, with different ideas and interests.
"Develop good study skills and good work ethics," he advised. "Study more, and study harder."
Keel advised students to take care of yourself - a healthy body is as important as a healthy mind." He said he hoped students would choose Georgia Southern University and invited them to make use of the Recreation Activity Center if they did.
"Keep and open mind," he said. "You'll be exposed to viewpoints and customs that are vastly different."
Keel's final point of advice was “Accept responsibility. Professors will regard you as an adult and treat you as such.”
As he closed his speech, Keel assigned students what he called a bit of homework.
"When you've been handed your honor graduate diploma, find that special person (who has helped with your success) and thank them," he said. "Let that someone special know how grateful you are."
He advised students to dream big" and reminded them, "As (Albert) Einstein said, imagination is more important than knowledge. There is no finish line."