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Shari LaViolette’s address at the Scholars Evening

Good evening!

Shari LaVioletteFirst of all, I am so honored to have been asked to speak on behalf of all UW Fox Valley scholarship recipients.  I want to congratulate each and every one of you for your accomplishments.  I appreciate this opportunity to share a little about myself and my journey. 

Let me start a little after the beginning. My name is Shari LaViolette and I grew up in a sleepy little bedroom town where high expectations weren’t commonplace.  I attended Clintonville High School and after graduation furthered my education at a local technical college.  While raising a family, I obtained my associate’s degree in 6 long years. 

  • In the past, I found true joy in working in an assisted living facility and a nursing home. 
  • I also owned and operated a restaurant, which I was forced to close when I was in an automobile accident in 2005 that left me with a broken vertebra in my lower back. 
  • But for most of my life, I worked in the field of Residential Design and Contractor Sales for a total of 12 years.  The economy had finally taken its toll with my job and I was convinced that I had to do something different.  As a single mom raising five children, I knew that my children’s opportunities would be extremely limited if I didn’t.  Although I miss those experiences, I always knew that I was destined for something greater. 

See, I had always known what I wanted to do with my life, I just wasn’t sure what it was called and didn’t have the resources.  This nagging at my conscience to accomplish something significant began with the influence I received through the life of my grandmother. 

  • She was the epitome of selflessness and benevolence. 
  • She gave birth to 12 children and raised 13 foster children. 
  • In her last years, she cared for a sister with severe Alzheimer’s disease. 
  • Never can I recall a day that she complained as she always wore a smile. 
  • She passed due to cancer when I was 16 and tomorrow marks 17 years that she has been gone. 

Shari LaViolette

UWFox student Shari LaViolette addresses the
UW-Fox Valley Foundation, scholarship donors
and members of the audience at the
Foundation’s annual “Scholars Evening,” held
on August 23, 2010.

A few years later, at the age of 53, my father was diagnosed with prostate cancer. 

  • He won his battle and is the first survivor in his family of 12 children. 
  • In April 2009, he developed a tumor and was diagnosed with stage 4 colorectal cancer.  An emergency situation forced treatment for which the doctors were less than optimistic.  
  • Once again, my father has surmounted the struggles of his disease and is now doing well. 

In between these trials, my third son, Tanner, who is here tonight, became extremely ill as an infant. 

  • An undiagnosable condition had us running him to emergency rooms and university hospitals across the state. 
  • After many blood transfusions and medical tests, a pediatrician from Green Bay had discovered that he was bleeding internally for an unknown amount of time. 
  • She referred us to Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin in Milwaukee where we had the sheer fate of joining together with the doctor that would save his life. 

These trials have spurred a deep sense of respect for human life and an urgency to contribute to the welfare of it.  Regardless of past failures, I had no excuses to ignore my dreams.  Winston Churchill said “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with enthusiasm”.  And that is why I am here. 

Those who try to do something and fail are infinitely better than those who try nothing and succeed.  The only time failure is bad is when you use it as an excuse to quit.  For me, quitting is not an option, so all that is left is making the choice to succeed.

For all of the scholarship recipients here this evening, I hope you are obtaining an education to do what your soul loves; what burns inside of you, and not just to get a job.

Anna Quindlen once said

“If your success is not on your own terms,

if it looks good to the world,

but does not feel good in your heart,

it is not success at all.”

I believe that most people spend the first half of their lives figuring out what it is they want to do and the second half wishing they would have done it.  After all I have endured and come to realize, I didn’t want that regret. 

In regards to my school career, if nothing else, I hope to leave my footprint for my family and those that know me by impressing the importance of learning and education and overcoming the tribulations that come with success.  Anything worthwhile is seldom free or easy. 

  • My children are living testaments of this concept.  Cole, Jesse, Tanner, Brooklyn, and Isabella have been the greatest inspiration for getting up early every morning or staying up late to study or finish assignments.  I owe them so much for their unrelenting patience.  Thank you.
  • The driving force behind everything I do is Shane, my significant other.  He could not be here tonight, but I owe him a debt of gratitude.  He has been my backbone that has kept me focused and steadfast in my journey and has supported every aspect of our family.  He has assumed all responsibility and stepped back so I may have a victory in my life.

Maybe it was circumstantial, maybe not, but without taking the steps to define my dreams and researching the possibilities of achieving it, I wouldn’t be here at UW Fox right now.  After seeking out options with numerous other universities, making phone calls, and sending emails for over a year, the many meetings and conversations I had with Mary Ann and Ted in Student Services reassured the fact that I had finally found an avenue to obtain my goals.

After two years of planning, I quit my job and enrolled at UW Fox Valley.  Since my start in the Fall of 2009, a great part of my motivation and success can be attributed to the professors here at UW.  From chemistry to ethics to physiology and all of the rest, I have been sincerely blessed with the knowledge and passion evident of my professors. 

Last semester, I met a professor who impressed on me some values I used to own, but forgot about.  He told me to try to enjoy life to the fullest and bring happiness to others when you can.  I often struggle with having too much on my plate, as I am sure you can imagine, and he said that being busy is associated with doing alot, which is a good thing.  He encouraged that I should be proud of how much I am doing and that I am making a positive impact.  I cannot thank him enough for his words always came just when I needed them.

It is professors such as these that are definitive of a quote by Vince Lombardi. 

He said,

“To be successful, a man must exert an effective influence upon his brothers and upon his associates,

and the degree in which he accomplishes this depends on the personality of the man. The incandescence of which he is capable. The flame of fire that burns inside of him. The magnetism which draws the heart of other men to him.”

It is people like this that have supported my cause to finish my Bachelor’s of Science degree in Nursing and to feel confident to move on to UW Madison to become a Genetic Counselor.  On the road to success, we must learn from the people who have made the journey before us.  If we do not use them as resources, we are shortchanging ourselves.  We can identify and use the traits of our professors here to make ourselves better.

To all scholarship donors, I hope I can be a visible example of how these scholarships benefit society exponentially.  My children’s future will be much brighter because you chose to give.  Thank you for that!  By offering these gifts, you enable us to put ourselves in a position to give back.

In closing, I can only imagine that what separates us from people who are not here tonight is persistence.  The people who will ultimately be successful are the ones who understand that success is a long-term commitment.  It is developing the attitude that you will never be content, but will always drive you to learn and be better.

In the words of Theodore Roosevelt:

It is not the critic who counts,

not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled,

or where the doer of deeds could have done better.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena,

whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood,

who strives valiantly,

who errs and comes short again and again,

who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions,

and spends himself in a worthy cause,

who at best knows achievement

and who at the worst if he fails at least fails

while daring greatly

so that his place shall never be

with those cold and timid souls

who know neither victory nor defeat.

Thank you!