Johnson to grads: 'It is now your duty to carry the torch of involvement'
More than 2,200 degrees conferred during University's 124th Commencement
Over the course of two sunny, albeit slightly breezy days on May 16-17, the University of Nevada, Reno celebrated 2014 Spring Commencement by conferring 2,251 degrees and certificates to the Class of 2014 on the immaculately prepared University Quadrangle.
Bachelor-degree recipients were honored on the mornings of Friday, May 16 and Saturday, May 17, while advanced-degree recipients were highlighted during a ceremony on Friday afternoon.
President Marc Johnson congratulated all the graduates with a Welcome Address that stressed personal involvement in community and the world.
"Exceeding one's obligations for the betterment of society is one of the truest tests of meaningful existence," Johnson said. "The fullness of our time on Earth is often measured by our character - what our lasting contribution has been to the greater good."
Citing several examples of University alumni who have gone on to make difference - including U.S. Sen. and Nevada Gov. Richard Bryan, Congressman Jim Santini and Susan Desmond-Hellmann, an M.D. who has since gone on to become CEO of the world's largest private foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation - Johnson said University graduates all know at an intuitive level that they can and should do more once they commence lives away from the University.
"These are just a few examples of our graduates ... strong, confident individuals of great personal integrity - people who embody the values and ideals of this institution," Johnson said. "They are all people who took the initiative to step up to do more.
"They were all entrepreneurial in that they dared to succeed ... and they dared to share their success with others."
Johnson also cited the example of Kurt Neddenriep, a University graduate who as a lieutenant colonel in the Nevada National Guard and during a tour of duty in war-torn Afghanistan, met a young Army interpreter named Aimal Halim. The two struck up a friendship, and Neddenriep promised his own financial support for Halim if Halim attended the University. Halim graduated on Friday with a degree in political science and a 3.2 grade point average. Halim's story drew a roar of appreciation from the crowd when Johnson told the young interpreter's story.
Ultimately, Johnson told all the graduates, quoting the words of President John F. Kennedy from a Commencement speech Kennedy had delivered in May 1963 at Vanderbilt University, "Be a participant ... and not a spectator." Johnson added, "You are the new generation of University graduates. The torch has been passed. It is now your duty to carry this torch of involvement for the betterment of all into our future."
In addition to the more than 2,200 graduates and certificates, several special awards were presented during the ceremonies. Computer Science and Engineering major James Bridegum from the College of Engineering was named the Herz Gold Medalist as the University's top graduating senior. Three Distinguished Nevadans were also recognized: Gregory Wright Ferraro, Keith Lee and Santini.