Deputy Superintendent for Fredericksburg City Schools Marci Catlett charged 161 University of Mary Washington master’s degree candidates to avoid complacency and bring their best to life’s challenges.
“To be successful, you have to be uncomfortable, because often you have to do what you don’t feel like doing or being. It takes work, sacrifices and perseverance. To be successful . . . you have to learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable,” Catlett said during graduate commencement exercises in Dodd Auditorium of George Washington Hall Friday, May 11.
The University awarded 9 Master of Geospatial Analysis degrees, 45 Master of Business Administration degrees, 2 Master of Science in Management Information Systems degrees, 79 Master of Education degrees, 27 Master of Science in Elementary Education degrees.
Catlett, who delivered the commencement address, told of her own struggles that included a 17-year journey to a doctorate.
In fact, it was just this week that she was awarded a doctorate degree in education from Virginia Tech – on her mother’s 95th birthday, she said.
“I too am a member of the class of 2018,” said Catlett, who has worked in the Fredericksburg school system for 36 years in roles ranging from administrative assistant to her current job.
So is Catlett’s son. Mario Catlett will earn his bachelor’s degree from UMW on Saturday.
“Many years ago, one of my male-coworkers, who is a genius at what he does and is a graduate of this fine university, shared with me that I have five strikes against me,” she said. “And then he later added a sixth strike.”
The strikes included her gender and race – Catlett is an African-American woman – and her age – she was supervising people older than she was.
Her advanced degree and administrator salary was a source of resentment to some, Catlett said her friend told her. And finally, she was much shorter than most female executives.
“I didn’t quite know to respond, but I did value his honesty.”
Instead of letting it get her down, Catlett said she came up with Five Rules of Life.
“Stay in faith,” she began. “God has a plan – a purpose and a promise to never leave us or forsake us. Attitude determines altitude, and having a positive attitude can open many doors and opportunities. Always take the high road and do the right thing. Love learning. Education is the great equalizer and levels the playing field. And the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
She urged students to avoid complacency, to do what they don’t feel like doing.
“You have to learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable,” Catlett said.
There are three types of people in the world, she said. Those who walk past the downtrodden, those who step on the downtrodden and those who lift up the downtrodden.
“Which one,” Catlett asked the soon-to-be UMW graduates, “are you?”