Ashley Carter, director of alumni and constituent engagement. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

A letter to the newly minted Brenau alumni

As I think back on my time at Brenau and my own graduation, I am reminded of a J.K. Rowling quote from her 2008 Harvard University commencement address: “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.”

Over the last two months, we celebrated as hundreds of alumni came back to campus for Alumnae Reunion Weekend & May Day. We commemorated the 90th anniversary of Brenau Academy and the 140th anniversary of the Women’s College, and I watched nearly 380 students walk across a stage and join our alumni family.

As new graduates going out into the world, you have to accept that you will have failures – many of them – but without failure, you cannot succeed. I hope that your time at Brenau was as great an experience as mine, and I am sure it helped to prepare you for the world beyond graduation. Life is full of so many surprises, both good and bad, but if there is one thing I learned from Brenau, it was that failure is OK as long as you learn from it.

When we look at great thinkers throughout history, failure and defeat were their greatest teachers. I am sure you have heard the story of Thomas Edison and the lightbulb, which reportedly took 1,000 tries before he developed a successful prototype. When Edison was asked how it felt to fail 1,000 times, he famously replied, “I did not fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.” In today’s society, we consider failure to be fatal. But you should view any missteps as stepping stones to later successes.

Class of 2018, as you go out into the world, I wish you all endless success and remind you to hold no fear of failure as you work to achieve it.

Ashley M. Carter, MBA, WC ’09, BU ’12
Director of Alumni & Constituent Engagement
Brenau University

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