Alumnus, veterinarian Price encourages Auburn’s newest graduates to work hard, be intentional during summer commencement speech

President Christopher B. Roberts congratulates graduates at first ceremony as university’s leader

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Auburn University alumnus and veterinarian Dr. Jay Price stressed the importance of hard work, enjoying the journey and being intentional during his speech to more than 1,400 newly minted graduates at Neville Arena on Friday night.

The 2006 graduate relished the opportunity to speak at his alma mater at the summer commencement ceremony.

“As a fellow alum, I want to first applaud each of you for your hard work and perseverance over the past few years,” said Price, a Phenix City, Alabama, native. “These are challenging times, and this makes your accomplishments at Auburn even more special. Your tenacity and determination to succeed have gotten you here today, and I speak for the entire Auburn Family when I offer you a well-deserved congratulations.”

Price—who earned a bachelor’s degree in zoology and a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine—founded Southern Veterinary Partners, one of the nation’s largest networks of veterinary practices. He spoke about the risks of taking chances like the one he did in setting up the conglomerate, which has grown to more than 330 hospitals across 15 states.

“Creating SVP was a huge life risk, but it taught me a few lessons I want to share with you all,” Price said. “No one should ever take themselves too seriously, and no one should be above doing the most menial task, especially if it helps you achieve a major goal. Next, be intentional. My decision to step out of being a practicing veterinarian to start SVP was a considerable risk, but I was intentional about it.

“You can never go wrong speaking less and listening more, and you will be surprised how much you can learn by doing just that. Traditions are a huge part of the Auburn experience. It’s the traditions that bond us together, that keep us coming back, and it’s also the traditions that make it bittersweet for those of you who are about to leave.”

When his first application to Auburn’s College of Veterinary Medicine was denied, Price had a decision to make. He chose to dig down, work harder and deepen his experience, and he was accepted on the second try.

“It meant more to me because I knew how special this opportunity really was,” Price said. “I began vet school with an intention, with a purpose and with a deep understanding of three core values I know are keys to success—hard work, connections and persistence.”

Price talked about the bonds that members of the Auburn Family enjoy for a lifetime.

“Every student has a different Auburn journey, but there are things all of us share,” Price said. “The first time we stepped on campus as a student, this moment now, as you prepare to turn your tassels to the left—our journeys begin and end in the same way, but each of us has moments that are unique. It’s the connections made during these times that make these moments special.

“Walking down the concourse with friends on a spring day, the excitement and anticipation before the first fall gameday, the pure joy we experienced together watching Coach Pearl and the basketball team defeat almost every opponent during the regular season to bring home the SEC title. Just like the traditions we share, these moments connect us.”

Price closed with a reference to a passage from the Auburn Creed, which was written in 1943.

“Even though George Petrie wrote this line in the Auburn Creed decades ago, it has never been truer than it is today: ‘I believe in the human touch, which cultivates sympathy with my fellow men and mutual helpfulness and brings happiness for all,’” Price said. “We live in a very polarizing time, yet these words mean so much to the Auburn Family. It’s what keeps us together in spite of our differences, and it’s what binds us together, whether we are the Class of 1943 or the Class of 2022.

“We are connected because of the values and the experiences we share.”

Friday night’s address also included the official conferral of more than 1,400 degrees by Auburn Board of Trustees member Quentin Riggins, as well as the group recognition of undergraduate students graduating with academic honors and an official welcome to the Auburn Alumni Association. It also was the first commencement for Auburn President Christopher B. Roberts, who took over the reins from Jay Gogue on May 16.

“I am honored to be with you at my first commencement serving as Auburn University’s president,” said Roberts, who personally greeted every graduate on stage during Saturday’s college ceremonies. “Earning your degree whether at the undergraduate, master’s or doctoral level, is a remarkable accomplishment. It demonstrates your commitment to learning, your ability to persevere—especially in times of challenge—and, most importantly, your ability to master new skills.

“Wherever your Auburn degree takes you, know that you have the knowledge and confidence to succeed. Apply everything you’ve learned here—whether from the classroom and the lab to the dorm and the organizations you’re involved with—and use them to impact the world in a positive way. We’re counting on you.”

Friday night’s program was followed by individual colleges’ ceremonies at Neville Arena on Saturday, which ran from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. A total of 1,424 graduates participated in the commencement celebrations, and of those graduates, 341 were master’s, 152 were doctorates and two were professional degrees. The university conferred 909 bachelor’s degrees, along with 20 education specialist degrees.

More information about Auburn’s celebrations can be found on the commencement website.

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