"Leaders who combine these qualites make great lawyers. They make great citizens. And they make great history," he said.
He reminded them that no one is certain where he or she will end up in five or 10 or 40 years.
"When I graduated law school more than three decades ago, the idea of being governor was as unlikely a thought as being on the basketball court at Villanova," he said. Corbett attended St. Mary's University School of Law in San Antonio, Texas.
He went on to become a prosecutor, then a civil litigator, before "politics found me. I've learned that success is found by working hard at the task at hand, learning to love the challenges you take on, and not being afraid to accept new challenges."
He didn't mention one of the biggest challenges surely on the minds of many Villanova law grads, as it is for most young adults: finding a job.
The Republican governor has come under fire in recent weeks after a survey showed Pennsylvania lagging most other states in job creation and the state's unemployment rate trailing the national average.
Corbett had an opportunity to announce a nugget of good news - that the state's jobless rate fell in April to 7.6 percent from 7.9 percent in March - but he didn't.
Instead, he noted that "in a world filled with cynicism, and where the right to doubt is given precedence over the wisdom to believe, we need leaders with the passion of Lincoln and the integrity of Thomas More."
Contact Kathy Boccella at 610-313-8232, firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow #kathyboccella on Twitter.