COLUMBUS, Miss. – Dr. Sheila Adams, dean of the College of Nursing and Health Sciences at Mississippi University for Women, urged August graduates to pay attention to how they live their lives.

Adams, whose career has spanned more than 40 years, delivered her message Friday afternoon in Rent Auditorium, Whitfield Hall.

“How you live your life, how you handle those obstacles, challenges and barriers life will throw at you during your career, may define you more than what career you’ve chosen,” she said.

Adams shared personal accounts from her life, including stories about two individuals who taught the importance of how one chooses to live their life.

“I thought about this topic because of a book written by retired U.S. Navy Admiral William H. McRaven. The book was titled `Make Your Bed-Little Things That Can Change Your Life and Maybe the World,’” she explained. “The premise of the book was when you got up every morning, and made your bed, and made it well…you had accomplished the first task of the day and had accomplished it well.”

Adams said the book made her think about her time as a youth at camp. There she met another camper by the name of Becky, whom was described as coming from a privileged family. According to Adams, Becky wasn’t used to having to do anything for herself.

“The first week of camp Becky refused to make her bed or do anything else. She was what we called a spoiled, self-centered and pampered `young lady,’” Adams said. “The counselor in the cabin talked with Becky each day telling her that part of the camp experience was learning and doing new things.”

Eventually Becky came around and made her bed every morning and straightened her foot locker.

“Instead of a spoiled and self-centered `young lady,’ she became a friend and someone who enjoyed helping others—a very different person than the Becky that came to camp that summer. Those changes continued when Becky went home at the end of the summer,” Adams said. “Becky changed how she lived her life and it impacted those of us who knew her, even though we were only children at the time.”

Unfortunately, Becky lost her life to a freak accident, when she was struck by lightning. Her parents went on to create an award in her name and it was given to an individual, who had progressed in camp just as their daughter had.

“I know Becky would never have thought that over 50 years after we were at camp together, I would be talking about her life in a commencement speech.”

The second person Dr. Adams mentioned in her speech was her mother. “When my mother was pregnant with me she developed complications and was put on bed rest for the last five to six months of the pregnancy.”

After Adams was born, she explained that she had feeding problems to the point where the doctors didn’t think she was going to survive.

“My mother wouldn’t accept the doctor’s diagnosis that I wasn’t going to survive. She had them bring her the equivalent of a medicine dropper and she sat by my bassinet all day—every day-- and began feeding me a few drops of formula at a time…

“Her efforts were obviously successful because I’m here today.”

Adams also shared that her father was in an accident, injuring his shoulder and arm. Problems persisted with his shoulder to the point where it had to be opened surgically.

“He (the doctor) closed the area and told my parents what he found,” she said. “It was a very malignant and rapidly spreading type of cancer.” The doctors gave her father a few months to live.

Adams’ mother continued to help her father on the job and she took care of him at home, as well as the family.

And to make matters even worse, Adams said a hospital representative said that her father’s health insurance had been depleted and they would have to decrease some of his medications.

“My mother said that was unacceptable. My father had a life insurance policy and he was dying,” she said. “My mother took that life insurance policy to the bank and used it as collateral to borrow the money to continue to pay for the care and medications my father needed to keep him as comfortable as possible until he died.”

Adams’ mother went on to have a successful career and accomplished many things. “At the time, I didn’t realize how difficult that must have been for her,” she said. “In later years as I looked back, I didn’t know how she had done it. By her example, she taught me how to handle the challenges and obstacles life often brings.”

Her mother continued to make a difference in the lives of many, Adams recounted, encouraging students to do the same.

“My hope for each of you today, as you leave The W and begin your career, is that you also pay attention to how you live your life. Because how you live your life will define you in ways you may never fully understand or even know,” she said.

Aug. 11, 2017
Contact: Anika Mitchell Perkins
(662) 329-7124
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