Improvise in life, speaker tells WF grads

Eboo Patel

Improvise in life, speaker tells WF grads
May 19
08:40 2016



Wake Forest graduates need to be ready to improvise, said commencement speaker Eboo Patel, who served on President Barack Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

Patel spoke to about 1,900 graduates during the Monday, May 16 commencement ceremony held on campus. Patel is an Oxford graduate and Rhodes Scholar, who is founder and president of the Interfaith Youth Core, a Chicago-based non-profit that promotes interfaith cooperation. Patel was tapped for the interfaith council position in 2009, which helped develop Obama’s Interfaith and Community Service College Challenge that invites colleges to commit to interfaith and community service programming.

Patel used musician Louis Armstrong and jazz, an art form known for improvisation,  as an analogy for what Wake students will need to do in life, saying the nation has ventured into a “Jazz age” that requires constant change. He used his own example of joining the speech team after not making the Varsity basketball team, which helped lead him to his current career path.

“I’m not telling you to throw away the roadmap you’ve sketched for your life, I’m just saying your liberal arts education ought to have given you the eyes to read the road signs along the way and the ability to change direction when the original plan goes sideways,” said Patel.

Camry Wilborn of Winston-Salem was among the graduates who’ve already done a bit of adapting. After initially wanting to do pre-med, she is now graduating with degrees in political science and women and gender studies. One thing that hasn’t changed in her plan was going to WFU, where she attended summer basketball camps in her youth.

“I’ve always wanted to go to Wake since I was about nine, I kind of had my mind set on it,” she said. “And, actually, this is the only school I applied to.”

Wilborn and her twin sister, who graduated from East Carolina University on May 6, were top of their class at Winston-Salem Preparatory Academy and are the first in their family to graduate college. Wilborn said that WFU has afforded her great opportunities like studying abroad.

She also got to work on several presidential campaigns as part of Wake the Vote. She was featured on the final episode of Melissa Harris-Perry’s show on MSNBC talking about the program. Wilborn has taken several classes, including a course on the Black Lives Matter movement, under Harris-Perry, who is a WFU professor.

Wilborn has accepted a position as a fellow with the WFU Pro Humanitate Institute, which Harris-Perry is the executive director of. The institute coordinates various charitable and outreach programs at the university.

Graduate Julian Gilyard also had a change of plans. He originally envisioned himself as a surgeon and politician, but changed his majors to mathematical economics and computer science. He’s already been hired at UBS, a global financial services company, as a Wall Street trader. He said he loves the frantic, hectic pace of trad-ing in financial markets.

Gilyard is a Gordon Scholar who has received a full ride minority merit scholarship. He said his experience at WFU has been a “breathtaking experience” for him.

“It’s even more than I could have ever imagined,” he said. “I never imagined I’d study abroad, I’d never imagined that I’d have a Wall Street job. The two majors I came in with are completely different than the two I’m graduating with. And it’s a great experience that I feel like I’m going to leave college with lots of friends and a lot of experiences.”

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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