Bill Hampton returned to of Montgomery Area High School to offer words of wisdom to graduating seniors.
Before a packed house at the school's athletic and community center, Hampton urged them to reach high and remember to smell the roses along the way.
The 1979 Montgomery graduate and a star high school athlete, told the students that nothing replaces hard work. Set goals, he said, be positive and do things the right way.
Hampton, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel whose 27-year military career included service in Iraq, Afghanistan and as a legislative liaison to Congress, fondly recalled his own graduation.
He reminded the graduates that time goes by fast and the the world is an ever-changing place with many opportunities.
"Many of us take education for granted," he said.
But he was quick to remind them that for much of the world's population, a high school diploma is a rare thing.
Hampton, who competed in football and track and field at Montgomery and finished second in the state for the high school javelin, said he was not himself a stellar student.
"Fortunately, I woke up soon enough," he said.
Hampton went on to graduate from Bowling Green University and then entered the Air Force.
He told the graduates to ask themselves where they want to be in 10 years and 20 years.
"Every obligation has a course of action," he said.
Have a plan, he added, but also remember that money has never made anyone happy.
Valedictorian Jason Rutkoski reminded his classmates to take advantage of opportunities that await them.
The education, the nation where we all live in, he said, present many opportunities.
Salutatorian Samantha Wise told her classmates they are part of a team.
"Each piece is waiting for you to pick it up and put it into your future," she said.
Dominic Galanti welcomed his classmates with encouraging words.
"Congratulations to all of you," he said. "I can't wait to hear about the successes of our classmates."
District Superintendent Daphne Ross urged the graduates to take risks in life.
"Believe in yourself," she said. "Use your talents."
Sixty-six seniors received diplomas given out by school board president Adam Diggan.