We welcome honored guests, public officials, parents, spouses, relatives and friends of members of the graduating class of 2008. We are delighted to have you on campus as we celebrate this 109th annual Commencement of Southern Utah University. Above all, it is an honor to welcome our distinguished graduates!
Included in this year’s graduating class are students from 27 of Utah’s 29 counties, 35 of the 50 States and ten foreign countries. There are 1,535 candidates for graduation, the youngest is 17 and the oldest is 67. This graduating class is the largest in the University’s 111 year history and we salute each one of them on this singular achievement.
Today, the University honors accomplishment and the successful culmination of a variety of academic pursuits as represented in those who have persisted to graduation. We would like to also recognize extraordinary individual success, those whose academic performance brought credit to themselves, their classmates, their families and those who taught them. Due to time constraints we shall recognize but a few of these superb scholars.
We have the opportunity today to salute seven Outstanding Scholars from colleges and schools, and five Co-Valedictorians: The Outstanding Scholars are: Trevor Harbison of the School of Business; Nicholas Schultz of the College of Computing, Integrated Engineering and Technology; Kristen Humes of the Beverley Taylor Sorenson College of Education and Human Development; Isaac Holyoak and Jessica Clark of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences; Amanda Woffinden of the College of Performing and Visual Art; and Kurt Whittemore of the College of Science. Congratulations to these Outstanding Scholars!!!
All five of our co-valedictorians maintained a 4.0 GPA for their entire higher education career. The SUU valedictorians for 2008 are:
Jodi Croft Dahlin, from Cedar City, is an elementary education major with a minor in art. Upon graduation, Jodi plans to develop educational resources and write and illustrate children’s books.
Whitnee Sorenson, a creative writing English major with a minor in accounting, came to SUU from Orem. Now that she is leaving as an accomplished graduate, Whitnee plans to begin writing young adult fiction while working as an office manager and editor during the day.
Brittany Jensen, from Orderville, is graduating with a major in communication and a minor in sociology. Along with continuing to care for her two children, Brittany now plans to earn a graduate degree in communication here at SUU.
Julie Noakes, graduates this year with a degree in elementary education. Originally from Taylorsville, Julie’s future plans include a June wedding, after which, she will start teaching in the Granite School District this fall.
Savanna Sorensen, from Prescott, Arizona, has earned a degree in nutrition and chemistry while here at SUU. In addition to wrangling a brand new baby boy, Gage, who was born just over a week ago, Savanna hopes to one day attend medical school or pursue a graduate degree in nutrition.
We commend each of these students for their very impressive achievements!
The graduating class of 2008 has an average GPA of 3.44—this is up from a 3.39 average GPA among last year’s graduates. We salute you graduates, your families, and I am confident your contributions to society will be notable and significant.
Certainly one of the major reasons for the remarkable honors and achievements of these students is SUU’s 222 full-time and 94 part-time faculty. As committed mentors, teachers and scholars, SUU’s faculty do indeed celebrate in the success of their students. They help create the learning environment that inspires their students to see new vistas, to understand new concepts, and to reach new heights. We admire and respect the talents, knowledge and commitment to students so readily apparent among the University’s dedicated faculty. Certainly the preparation you graduates have attained during your years at SUU is a result of your own diligent efforts, but also the inspired instruction and encouragement you have received from splendid faculty and mentors. In addition, the staff here at SUU are second to none. Their commitment to you and your successes has enabled you to be here this morning.
Please allow me the liberty of bragging a bit about our faculty and staff for just a moment. The University is currently in the silent phase of a multi-year comprehensive campaign to raise $115 million to coincide with SUU’s 115th anniversary in 2012. As part of that effort, last month we launched an employee giving campaign. The goal is simple: we invited ALL faculty and staff to donate – whatever amount – back to Southern Utah University for whatever purpose they deemed appropriate: for scholarships, for building projects, for athletics, for whatever. I am very pleased to announce that as of today, 70 percent of our employees have elected to participate. Our goal is 100 percent. SUU employees understand how valuable education is & are doing more than providing lip service to this conviction. In fact, they are taking money from their personal discretionary funds to create scholarships & other services on campus that provide SUU students with the best experience possible. Bear in mind that in many cases these funds represent a significant sacrifice. Our SUU employees – just like many of you here today -- have mortgages and medical bills and feel the same pangs at the gas pump when they fill their vehicles.
Nonetheless, instead of letting those challenges overcome or sour them, like the great founders of SUU, our employees are willing to make sacrifices and are committed to the success of our students. I mention this campaign this morning so that you know we are literally doing all we can to help our students become the most educated and capable people they can be. I am proud to associate with such outstanding faculty and staff and am honored to serve this amazing institution and its remarkable students.
I am also privileged to teach with superb colleagues in the Department of Political Science and Criminal Justice. My associates and I pool our resources each year to fund 2 scholarships for deserving students. I just received this note from one of this year’s recipients:
I wish to express my extraordinary gratitude for the contributions you have made to the scholarship fund here at SUU. I truly feel that supplying young people with the means to receive a quality education is among the noblest things you could have done. I want you to know that the impact this award will have on me and on those around me will not go unnoticed. You can be sure that this impact will last well beyond the next school year.
At a Graduation Banquet last evening, special faculty and staff awards were presented. The Distinguished Classified Staff Member is Andrea Masterson of the Cashier’s Office and the Distinguished Professional Staff Member is Glen Pryor of the Information Technology Department. Outstanding staff members, female and male, are Stacia Thomas of SUU’s Career Services and Casey Bowns of Motor Pool & Receiving.
A Distinguished Educator’s Committee and an Outstanding Scholar’s Committee, created by the Faculty Senate, recommended the following to receive awards this year: Greg Powell for the Outstanding Educator (in the School of Business); Todd Robert Petersen, for the Outstanding Scholar (in English); and as Distinguished Educators, Robin Calland (in English), Laura Cotts (in Physical Science), and Kirk Fitzpatrick (in Philosophy).
Finally, we acknowledge the retirement of 10 of our faculty and staff colleagues who leave the University after having given the institution, collectively, 188 quality years. From the staff: Maurice Hinton, Linda Reber, Dianne Werber, Mark Barton and Diana Graff; and from the faculty: Kate Grandison, Verlinda Angell, Ward Gubler, Kay Cook, and Fred Lohrengel. These committed individuals have retired during the year or announced their retirement. We extend to them our deepest thanks for their years of dedicated service. We regard them as terrific members of today’s graduating class.
Among the many publications that arrive in my office, a scholarly journal crossed my desk the other day from Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania. What caught my attention was the image on the front cover – a very simple photograph of Shearer Hall at Shippensburg with this inscription above the entrance: “Collect whatever of talent, erudition, eloquence, and authority the broad land can supply. And go forth and teach this people.” These inspiring words come from the great American educator, Horace Mann, in a 4th of July address in Boston in 1842. You graduates before us today represent an incredibly miniscule portion of the world’s population in first, having access to higher education; and second, availing yourselves of this opportunity and now having earned degrees. I commend you for this accomplishment and charge you to do something with the education and experience you have gleaned. You did not earn these degrees in a vacuum nor are you exempt from the burden to do something of benefit with your education. Don’t be afraid to try and to fail because, in the words of E-bay CEO Meg Whitman, “The Price of Inaction is Far Greater than the Cost of Mistakes.”
So my advice to you today is simple: Stay curious. Do good. Contribute. Give more than you take. Make a difference.
In the words of one my favorite bands, Alter Bride, yours is the responsibility to “Rise Today and Change This World.”
I’d like to extend to each of the graduates my congratulations and those of my colleagues. You depart this University with our best wishes and most sincere regard. You leave SUU a better place because of your service and achievements.
A bond has been formed between you and this institution. From this time forward, the name, the traditions, the influence of this University are freely yours, just as your achievements, your successes, indeed the tenor of your life will reflect on Southern Utah University. The buildings and equipment, the services of teachers and staff, the fellowship of hundreds of students, have all been aimed toward your growth and education. You leave this institution with our best wishes and with the knowledge that wherever you go, a part of Southern Utah University goes with you.
We wish to express appreciation to all who have participated in these exercises. A special thanks to our honorary degree recipients for being with us today and for the wonderful messages from Dr. Mario Capecchi and Isaac Holyoak. Our thanks to the fine young musicians who have performed so splendidly this morning and to the Commencement Team for their extra-mile efforts in organizing these ceremonies.
I invite all of you to take time today to walk this campus, to enjoy the beauty of the grounds, and the immaculate condition of our facilities. I thank ALL of our maintenance and facility personnel who take such pride in the look and feel of Southern Utah University. They have worked extremely hard to prepare what is – arguably – one of America’s most beautiful universities. Commencement is a campus-wide event, and we want to thank everyone who has helped with preparations for today’s ceremony; a special thanks to Dean O’Driscoll and Mindy Benson – both of whom graduated today with master’s degrees! -- and their Commencement committee for the behind-the-scenes work, and to the numerous other faculty and staff who have in many ways influenced our students and helped prepare them for today. To all of you, again we offer our sincere thanks.
And finally, as you consider your academic accomplishment this morning, reflect on these words of Mark Twain. He once wrote, “When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant, I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”
So at the conclusion of today’s ceremony, I would like each of you to find your mom or dad, give them a hug of appreciation, and let them know how delighted you are at how much they’ve learned while you’ve been away at Southern Utah University.