Welcome honored guests, public officials, parents, spouses, relatives and friends of members of the graduating class to this 110th annual commencement of Southern Utah University. It is indeed a distinct honor to welcome our distinguished graduates!
It is a thrill to look across this arena and know that we are about to bestow degrees on the largest graduating class in the history of Southern Utah University. There are 1,767 candidates for graduation, the youngest is 17 and the oldest is 64. Included in this year’s graduating class are students from 26 of Utah’s 29 counties, 41states and 15 nations.
Today, the University honors achievement, and the successful culmination of a variety of academic pursuits as represented in those we graduate. We’d like to also recognize extraordinary individual accomplishment -- 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 two Co-Valedictorians: The Outstanding Scholars are: Emmeli Bulloch of the School of Business; Keith Palmer of the College of Computing, Integrated Engineering and Technology; Suzanne Goble of the Beverley Taylor Sorenson College of Education and Human Development; Jennifer Little and Susan R. Craw of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences; Jessica Metcalf of the College of Performing and Visual Arts; and Paul M. Johnson of the College of Science.
Both of our co-valedictorians maintained a perfect 4.0 GPA for their entire higher education career.
Mary Jayne Blackmore Roundy, from British Columbia, Canada, is an elementary education major. Upon graduation, Mary Jayne would like to pursue a graduate degree in education administration and teach in a third world country. She credits her husband Sam, two children, Starla and Kayden, and her parents with her success.
Amy Hancock Marshall, an accounting major with a minor in music, came to SUU from Salt Lake City. Amy served as a senator and as the SUUSA senate treasurer and helped promote undergraduate research during her SUU career. She now plans to pursue a law degree and her CPA license and is very grateful to her husband, Shaun Marshall, for his support.
The graduating class of 2009 has an average GPA of 3.44. We salute our graduates and your families for this tremendous accomplishment. This day is a celebration of your hard work, sacrifices and commitment to a goal. You are to be heartily congratulated.
Certainly one of the major reasons for the remarkable honors and achievements of these terrific students is SUU’s 231 full-time and 95 part-time faculty. As committed mentors, teachers and scholars, SUU’s faculty do indeed celebrate in the success and take great pride in 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. Southern Utah University is proud of the personal attention devoted to our students that helps them reach their highest goals. 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, mentors, staff and administrators on this campus.
Something you might not know about these committed employees is that last year we launched an internal giving campaign to encourage all of the SUU family to give back to the institution. As of Thursday afternoon, 80% of the employees on campus are donating their hard-earned wages to help your students get as much out of their SUU experience as possible. These donations not only represent thousands of dollars that directly benefit students, they symbolize SUU’s unwavering commitment to education. In these challenging times, the only thing that has truly changed on our campus is an even deeper commitment to the belief that learning lives forever.
This past academic year has been filled with ebbs and flows, triumphs and tragedies. Through it all, we survived and are here to celebrate the singular academic achievements of our graduates this morning.
I remember hearing a story several years ago of a traveler passing through a dusty and arid portion of Oklahoma during the dark days of the Great Depression. He happened across a lone farm, surrounded by nothing. It has a rickety old sign on the front gate which read: "Burnt out by drought. Washed out by flood. Ate out by jack-rabbits. Sold out by the Sheriff. Still here.”
And so are we – still here after 112 years since the founding of this remarkable institution by intrepid pioneers no less remarkable. The foundation they put into place continues to be built upon by subsequent generations of students, faculty, and staff.
If you will kindly indulge me for a few moments, please allow me to share just a few highlights of the past 12 months that will illustrate the quality of activities at Southern Utah University.
We started two new degrees this year—the bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre and the Bachelor of Music and we have our first graduate here this morning for the BFA.
We also launched the Utah Center for Arts Administration which will provide services and training for arts organizations and their managers. The world famous National Geographic Greatest Portraits exhibit was on display in our own Braithwaite Fine Arts Gallery this fall, delighting the campus, the community and more than 2,600 school children who toured the exhibit. The college of Performing and Visual Arts and the college of Humanities and Social Sciences both marked their ten year anniversaries with multiple celebrations and recognition events.
High performance computing came to SUU this past summer with Interactive Supercomputing in the college of CIET.
During welcome week in August, more than 1200 freshmen participated in service projects throughout Cedar City and Iron County making their presence felt in the community. SUU students also reached out by hosting a rodeo especially designed for elementary-aged special needs children, allowing the young people to try things they’ve never done before. Additionally, our students partnered with local 4-H groups to assist and inspire at-risk teens by volunteering as mentors and to help with homework and life skills.
SUU student Dana Meier placed third in the nation in Electronics Technology at the Skills USA National conference. Three SUU students claimed some of the top prizes in the annual Tri-County Best Business Idea competition. Student Chris Holmes won the Broadcast Education Association’s Best of Festival Award for his radio sports feature about the life of former SUU basketball coach Steve Hodson. Chris’ award is the national championship of the broadcasting competition. Fellow graduate Angie Smith also garnered third place at the same competition. The Rocky Mountain Psychological Association awarded SUU student Sharon Sternberg one of six research awards. KSUU, the FM radio station on campus, dominated the Utah Broadcaster Association awards, bringing home 16 of the 25 regional awards.
Professor Joe Baker, Department chair of Economics, gave the Grace A. Tanner distinguished faculty honor lecture this past Fall. And SUTV and communication professor Jon Smith won an award for the one-hour documentary Canyoneering the Colorado Plateau, An introduction to the Sport.
SUU associate professor of psychology Dr. David Shwalb delivered the Presidential Address at the national Society for Cross-Cultural Research this past winter. Arlene Braithwaite was named the state’s Higher Education Art Educator of the Year for 2009. Professor Braithwaite, a 30-year member of SUU’s Art faculty, also won the award in 1998 and in 2002. Briget Eastep, Pam Branin, student Lacie Jo Robinson and Paul Roelandt, from Cedar Breaks National Monument, were all recently honored for their civic engagement in addressing the needs of diverse communities.
Thunderbird athlete Elise Wheeler became the first-ever SUU gymnast to garner All American honors – and she did it three times at the recent national championship in Lincoln, Nebraska.
SUU is growing close to hosting new residential living spaces, thanks to great progress through the year toward completion of phase II of a campus housing project. This $14 million facility will be completed in July and ready for students to move in for Fall semester.
SUU welcomed former Governor Michael O. Leavitt back to campus after his stint in national politics, most recently as Secretary for Health and Human Services. He continues to write and organize his collection of public papers housed in the Leavitt Center for politics and public service in the Sherratt Library.
In March, SUU landed the prestigious recognition as an All Steinway School, one of only 80 in the entire world, and celebrated this milestone by donating a 9 foot concert grand to Cedar City’s Festival Hall in appreciation for this community’s unstinting support of our campus for over a century.
The 20-foot mobile science and technology lab, The Voyager, debuted on Earth Day last week with bright prospects for bringing more science education to public school systems across the southern half of the state of Utah.
SUU facilities earned the top state rating… again! The Utah Division of Facilities Construction and Management recognized SUU as the highest-ranked institution within the state for its campus-wide facilities management. SUU was lauded for exceeding even the national norms for campus care.
Also, SUU forged two new alliances this year, one with the Zion National Park group to improve educational access to and protection of valuable resources through education and research; and the other alliance with the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah to enhance educational opportunities for Native American students.
The latest in a string of efforts to make the SUU campus greener came in the form of new solar panels on the facilities management building on west campus. This, coupled with a cutting-edge irrigation system, low-flow utilities, several xeriscape conversions and an enhanced recycling program continue to move SUU towards better sustainability while reducing our collective footprint.
On the fundraising side, SUU garnered $500,000 of federal money and nearly $14 Million from the state of Utah towards the Walter Maxwell Gibson Science Center which will begin construction in the next several weeks on the southeast corner of campus. The building is named for 1951 graduate Walter Gibson who has generously committed $3 million to the project. I would especially like to recognize the pivotal roles played by Representative Evan Vickers and Senator Dennis Stowell in helping the University secure state support for this desperately-needed facility. Also of note are the years of service of former state representative, Bud Bowman, and his advocacy of our science programs.
Jimmie Jones, seated here to my left on the stage today, has made an incredibly generous commitment to the University this year. In addition to donating his home and current collection of paintings and art work, Jim is in the midst of completing 20 new paintings which will launch Jim Jones: Recent Paintings at the Braithwaite Gallery on October 15th. Jim has graciously agreed to donate this entire new exhibit to the University. All of us cannot thank Jim enough for his magnanimity and graciousness.
And last fall, the first annual Thor’s Thunder classic golf tournament raised more than $82,000 in scholarships for our students.
Even many members of this graduating class have donated $20.09 per student this week, with over $2500 raised so far. This is thanks in large measure to the leadership of Student Body President Jon McNaughton – who begins graduate school at Stanford University in the Fall – and who organized a giving campaign that will help complete an auditorium in the student center in time for Homecoming this October.
As you can tell, it has indeed been a remarkable year. But we have also seen our share of sadness and tragedy. Last August, two students who should be sitting among the graduates this morning were lost in a tragic plane crash that shook our entire community. The families of Mandy Johnson and Dallin Ellsworth are here today and we will present them with degrees for these students’ educational efforts at subsequent convocations. Our thoughts and best wishes are with those families today.
In the face of the world’s challenges and the seemingly endless stream of discouraging headlines, the University and our community forge ahead. The SUU story continues to reach more families and prospective students. We enjoyed record growth this past fall semester, with a 6.5% increase to 7,516 students, demonstrating an enrollment growth that is increasing in direct correlation to the University’s reputation.
SUU’s master’s programs were recognized this year by U.S. News and World Report’s rankings of the best colleges across the nation. They were ranked in the top 25% in the nation. At the same time, Princeton Review’s 2009 Best colleges ranked Southern Utah University as one of the best universities in the western United States.
I would like to personally thank the dedicated faculty and staff of this institution whose commitment and resiliency inspire all of us on a regular basis. But I would expect nothing less given the remarkable founding of this institution.
On June 21, 1897, a special University of Utah Board of Regents meeting was convened to discuss the serious challenges facing the Branch Normal School that would soon be under the University’s control. Their report from that meeting read in part: “The Board at the University had no money at their disposal to pay teachers’ salaries, buy books or furniture. They had no money even to advertise the opening of the school.” And yet the Founders of this institution persisted – they never succumbed to those who doubted the fledgling branch normal school would ever take root let alone flourish.
Conversely, these intrepid builders made believers out of the toughest of skeptics as evidenced by this newspaper report:
“Altogether the little town of Cedar, with some 1,500 inhabitants, had inside of one year made an actual outlay in money and labor of nearly $40,000, an effort unparalleled in history of the state. For this immense sum the legislature of 1899 made a reimbursing appropriation of $17,000, which, after meeting the cash debts in full, was sufficient to pay the citizens only 56 percent of their due…”
This summary was published on December 15, 1900 in the Deseret News. How far we’ve come in over a century!
I cannot read the tales of the Founders, or step foot inside of Old Main, without feeling a profound sense of gratitude for their myriad sacrifices that enable us to gather here this morning.
To be sure, the Class of 2009 enters a world of tremendous uncertainty, filled with strife and conflict, and opportunity. One of my favorite poems is entitled, Prospice, by Robert Browning. A few lines from Browning’s remarkable prose speak to what happens to those ready for such challenges and equipped to tackle such opportunities:
For sudden, the worst turns the best to the brave.
The black minute's at end,
And the elements' rage, the fiend voices that rave,
Shall dwindle, shall blend,
Shall change, shall become first a peace out of pain.
To the graduates before me today – the worst of times turn the best to the brave. This is your moment. Seize the opportunity and strive to make a difference.
The progress this institution has witnessed over the past 112 years is directly attributable to the remarkably committed faculty and staff at Southern Utah University, along with the steadfast support of our community. At a Graduation Banquet last evening, special faculty and staff awards were presented. The Distinguished Classified Staff Member is Jennifer Hunter of the HSS Dean’s Office and the Distinguished Professional Staff Member is Bruce Barclay of the University’s Post Office. Outstanding staff members are Sheri Butler of the Sherratt Library and Neuman Duncan of Housing & Residence Life.
A Distinguished Educator’s Committee and an Outstanding Scholar’s Committee, created by the Faculty Senate, recommended the following to receive awards this year: Lisa Assante, from the Hotel, Resort and Hospitality Management program, for the Outstanding Educator; Gerald Calvasina, from the Management and Marketing program for the Outstanding Scholar; and as Distinguished Educators, Richard Eissinger, in Instructional Services, Mark Miller, in History, and Mackay Steffensen in Chemistry.
Finally, we acknowledge the retirement of 17 of our faculty and staff colleagues who leave the University after having given the institution an amazing 415 years of service. Will those in attendance please stand. From the staff: LaVoy Woolsey, Susan Linder, Gary Simkins, Marsha Leeder, Lavell Darrington, Brent Johnson, Neuman Duncan, Cindy Mitchell, Kathy Nelson, Rhea Tuft, Nolan Truman, and Dennis Ohms; and from the faculty: Cheryl Whitelaw, Dennis Vredenburg, Jim Bowns, Lamar Jordan and Provost Rod Decker. These committed individuals have retired during the year or announced their imminent retirements. We extend to them our deepest thanks for their years of dedicated service. We also regard them as terrific members of today’s graduating class.
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. I sincerely hope a bond has been formed between you and this institution. Your diploma is more than just a piece of paper: it is your ticket into the world of educated persons, and an invitation to join – for life – the Southern Utah University family. 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 forever on SUU.
I would like to offer special congratulations to Chelsea Banks Judd this morning who, by graduating, continues a six-generation unbroken string of graduates in her family at this institution, reaching back to Francis Webster. Francis played an integral role in the founding of the Branch Normal School including volunteering to mortgage his home to help pay the instructors’ salaries. Education—what a wonderful family tradition!
We wish to express appreciation to all who have participated in these exercises, with a special thanks to our speakers, Natalie Gunn and President Monson. 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.