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Engineering 360°

Richards, Schuller deliver 2018 commencement address

Three photos: Female student with diploma, Gee with Richards, Gee with Schuller

Photos by Ellis

Two distinguished graduates of West Virginia University –  J. Wayne Richards and  George Schuller, Jr. – were awarded honorary degrees at the Statler College’s 2018 Commencement. 

Richards shared how a series of tragic losses as a teenager – both his father and his uncle died before turning 40 – became motivating factors for his time at WVU. 

“Adversity is a funny thing; you can embrace it to make you stronger as a person, or you can bury your head in the sand and keep feeling sorry for yourself,” Richards said. “I chose the former and used it as a motivation in my engineering studies at WVU, graduating in four years with a degree in mining engineering.”

Richards went on to a 38-year career that has included stints as a senior executive for the largest oilfield services company in the world, to entrepreneur and co-founder of two startup companies. 

“There is no way I could have predicted how it would all play out,” Richards said. “As you all move forward to the next stage in your lives, please remember that anything is possible if you work hard, stay focused and continue to learn and add value in anything you happen to do, personally or professionally.”

Also a mining engineering alum, Schuller spent the first 15 years of his career at Peabody Energy, working his way up through the operation to the position of president of the company’s Australian operations.

Crediting “fantastic mentors” that include Calvin Kidd, a member of WVU’s Distinguished Engineer of Mines, Schuller told graduates, “As each of you will learn as you go through your career, mentors are a huge part of your success. When you combine their advice with a clear sense of purpose and a good set of values, you are truly on your way to becoming an outstanding representative of West Virginia University.

“No matter where I traveled around the world, I’d meet many WVU graduates excelling in their chosen professions,” Schuller continued. “Without fail, every one of them has the same pride and passion for this distinguished university and the foundation it established. I believe WVU graduates have a special character that shines through in the business world, and I am very pleased to have brought many of these individuals to the resource sector.”

In conferring the degree, WVU President E. Gordon Gee told graduates that their lives will be what they make them.

“Whether you are preparing to continue your education or start your career, you can launch a journey that leads you to the heights – and, if you are as fortunate as me, that calls you home to these beautiful mountains,” Gee said. “Along the way, wave your old gold-and-blue flag with the ardor of a go-go dancer. Become active in the Alumni Association, which has chapters throughout the world. It is worth it just for the pig roasts and crab feasts alone. West Virginia University is growing and advancing, so keep in touch with us online and visit campus often.”