Commencement speaker Kristen Maurer

Hundreds of graduates learn about “golf balls of life,” join AU alumni family

Published on Dec. 17, 2022
College of Arts & Sciences

ASHLAND, Ohio – Kristen Maurer used an unusual prop, a glass jar she termed the “golf balls of life,” to illustrate one of the tips she offered to the hundreds of Ashland University graduates in attendance during Saturday morning’s 2022 Winter Commencement ceremony inside the Niss Athletic Center.

Maurer, the 2022 Milken Educator Award recipient for the state of Ohio and a 2014 AU alumna, was the keynote speaker before six doctorate degrees, 211 master’s degrees, 354 bachelor’s degrees and 395 associate degrees were conferred.

Maurer filled the jar with golf balls, then pebbles and then sand, each component serving as a symbol. The golf balls represent the most important things in one’s life, such as family, friends and health, and the pebbles are the next-most essentials, maybe one’s car, job and home, while the thousands of grains of sand stand for everything else.

Maurer noted that everything fit in the jar because of the order it was placed, but that would not have been the case had the sand been poured in first. “If you spend all of your energy and time on the small stuff, you won’t have time for the really important things that matter to you,” she said. “Take the things that are most critical to your happiness … set your priorities. Everything else is just small stuff.”

Maurer provided additional pearls of wisdom, including to “delight in the detours” of life, to be “10 percent bolder” and “go beyond your comfort zone” at times and to “never underestimate your ability to change the world around you.”

Echoing similar sentiments to Maurer was Elizabeth Hohler, a future educator herself. Hohler was one of three valedictorians recognized—Daniel Appleby and Jirrico McKee, both Correctional Education students and communication studies majors, were the others—and took the occasion to ask her senior classmates to “be present” and “try to be intentional about where you invest your heart and your time.”

“Work is important, but it is not the end-all, be-all of life. Make sure to take the time to experience what will eventually become your favorite parts of life,” Hohler remarked.

Achieving the healthy work-life balance Maurer and Hohler alluded to can be challenging, but earning a degree from Ashland, where education goes beyond the classroom, helps students start down that path. Amiel Jarstfer, provost of AU, commented “this journey of transformational learning experiences has been far more than the acquisition of knowledge and skills” and he went on to cite the importance of what students learn from “activities, athletic competitions (and) relationships built” with fellow students and faculty.

In the days ahead, the newest members of the AU alumni family will begin applying their experiences and education to their chosen professions, whether it be teaching, business, criminal justice, religion, science, nursing or a host of other fields, all while keeping in mind the “golf balls of life” metaphor.

Ashland University is a mid-sized, private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Ashland University ( values the individual student and offers a unique educational experience that combines the challenge of strong applied academic programs with a faculty and staff who build nurturing relationships with their students.