University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown
Pitt-Johnstown Seal

Address by Abby Lee Gearhart


Abby Lee Gearhart, Class of 2010 

Good Afternoon President Spectar, distinguished guests, faculty and staff, parents, and my friends, the class of 2010. I feel blessed because I can call you friends. I’ve met almost all of you who are seated in front of me. If I haven’t met you, then I’m sure you’ve seen me either diving on the volleyball court, riding my bicycle, working out or selling fifty-fifty tickets at the sporting events. Hmm…in the gym how fitting it is that we meet here again. I consider myself lucky to be addressing such a class. A class full of hope, courage, and determination. I know this because I’ve seen what we have already accomplished. I look forward with great anticipation to what we are going to achieve.

Approximately 2.8 miles down the road, you will find a dirt road blessed with potholes and a steadfast home built with weathered hands. I like to call this place home. I was born and raised in Johnstown and have learned to appreciate every minute of it.  Too often we overlook opportunities that are right under our nose. Fortunately, my appreciation of Johnstown, my family, and a little bit of skill in volleyball allowed me to recognize my opportunity that sat right in my backyard. This university has not only been a wonderful opportunity for me to learn and grow as a person, but it has also provided more opportunities than I could have ever fathomed. Maya Angelou once said “I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself.” Even though I am fortunate enough to have home a little more than 2 miles down the road, I still feel as though Pitt-Johnstown is my second home. When I first was asked to speak here today, I immediately thought they couldn’t have asked a more willing person because I take such pride in my school, my home. I have such a passion for our school, our athletics, our academics, and everything that they stand for.

Our university is about dedication. Dedication in everything we do. We are more than a typical college campus. There is a reason why the University is on America’s Best Colleges 2009 list. Yes, we are a relatively small campus, but our contributions are large and are creating a ripple effect throughout our community, nation, and world. Someone once said, "If you think you are too small to be effective, [clearly] you have never been in the dark with a mosquito." We are that mosquito. You all are that mosquito…our university would not be what it is today if it weren’t for the quality individuals such as you all. Our small size is what makes us effective; we are able to work closely together. We are a community. One big home. If any of you don’t agree, then it’s your own fault. You did not get involved. Look at the mosquito, in order to be effective you have to bring the stinger out. You have to be willing to stick yourself out there and be ready to attack. You cannot expect to sit back and wait for opportunity to find you.

Each one of you is blessed with gifts…different gifts, unique to yourself. Find your niche… share your gifts with the world. Hopefully by now you have realized that your degree has something to do with your passion. As a dual math major, I want to tell you that “The shortest distance between two points is…. under construction.”(Noelie Alito) There are no short cuts. Be prepared for setbacks, but understand that those very setbacks will define you. They make you stronger. "Do not throw in the towel; use it for wiping the sweat off your [brow]."(Unknown) I have made every effort to be a part of this university and the organizations that make it so great. Perhaps that’s why I’ve enjoyed my experience so very much here at Pitt-Johnstown. I put myself out there and got involved. I have hit my fair share of walls, but I’ve learned to hurdle them. One of the most celebrated athletes, Michael Jordan said it himself, “Obstacles don’t have to stop you, if you run into a wall don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.” Maybe that’s why I have always worn the number 23.

I urge you to have the same pride and recognize what a diamond in the rough this university really is. Continue to render your support and give back to the university that gave so much to you. Do not overlook those opportunities that could be right under your nose…or right in your own backyard. As you exit these doors, I ask that you remember the very first moment you stepped into them. I’m sure you are feeling the same feelings only magnified a bit. You’re a big kid now. But don’t forget the twinge of excitement and anticipation of the unknown. Reflect on how you’ve grown, what has shaped you. Remember your mistakes and learn from them. Be prepared for others mistakes. [David Brink] “A successful person is the one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks that others throw at them.” And if there is one last piece of advice that I can give you as you go off into the real world and encounter new challenges and meet new people. It is something that I’ve lived by all my life and was taught in my home “There isn’t anyone you couldn’t love, once you’ve heard their story.” Think about what our iconic neighborhood friend Mr. Rogers said. And as you tie your shoes and zip your sweaters to go out into the world, my wish for you is that wherever you may go, find a place that you can call home.  Thank you...and may God Bless the class of 2010.