Commencement 2016: A time to 'dare to dream'

More than 2,700 degrees and certificates, a record, are presented during three Commencement ceremonies

Happy graduates at Commencement

Commencement 2016: A time to 'dare to dream'

More than 2,700 degrees and certificates, a record, are presented during three Commencement ceremonies

Happy graduates at Commencement

Commencement 2016 weekend was a time when more than 2,700 University degrees and certificates - a record number - were awarded. It was time for the individuals who received the degrees and certificates to take stock of their time as students.

It was also a time to look ahead, or as one of the guest speakers, Washoe County School Board President Angela Taylor put it, a time to "dare to dream."

"All of the hopes and dreams and plans you have in your head and heart right now, I dare you to live them out, to go after them with everything you've got," said Taylor, whose rousing speech on Saturday drew a standing ovation from the graduates, their families and friends who were gathered on the historic University Quadrangle for the University's 126th Commencement.

Taylor, whose academic career at the University includes a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and an MPA in Public Administration as well as her B.S. in Marketing in 1985, told those assembled that it was important to always remember the "ABC's" of life.

Smiling broadly, Taylor invoked the entire alphabet in describing to the Class of 2016 what philosophical touchstones they should have guiding their lives.

The first three letters she mentioned were indicative of a humanistic and giving approach that she said would serve the graduates well in personal as well as professional arenas. As she recited the entire alphabet, each with a special message and meaning, the crowd cheered its appreciation.

"I dare you to 'A' - Accept differences as life would be boring if we all looked alike," Taylor said. "I dare you to be 'B' - Be kind to others, especially those that can't do anything for you. I dare you to 'C' - Count your blessings.

"Somebody, somewhere, would give everything to be where you are."

Taylor was guest Commencement speaker along with University graduates Barbara Smith Campbell and Fatih Ozmen, who both spoke on Friday.

Campbell, the University's Alumna of the Year from 2014 who has excelled as a businesswoman since graduating in 1978, said her path to graduation was not a customary one. She had originally studied at Santa Clara University for three years, got married, and enrolled at the University at age 29 to finish her degree.

"I'm sure there are many of you in this graduating class who are just like me," she said. "You have piecemealed the time for an education, worked while studying, raised a family and just like me as a 29-year-old woman, felt incomplete without the prestige and respect my degree in Economics gave me.

"My degree gave me a confidence that was missing in my life."

Ozmen, owner of Sierra Nevada Corporation who received his M.S. degree in Electrical Engineering, recalled that when he first came to the University from his native Turkey, he only had a "bicycle and a backpack."  He said his success as a businessman stemmed directly from the college degree he had received from the University.

"It is the American Dream," he said. "This dream is based on hope, growth and optimism to reach our full potential. It is having the freedom and opportunity to pursue our passions in life by working hard and playing by the rules, which is rewarded by economic security, success, happiness and well-being ... This dream is available to everyone ... not just a select few."

President Marc Johnson, in his welcome remarks, encouraged the graduates to take leadership seriously. He told them that it was important to use the skills of discernment, of critical thinking and of civil conversation, which had all been stressed to them during their time at the University.

"Remember the patience of our great men and women throughout the history of our country," he said. "They are great because they chose to remember that we are in this for the long haul, and that sometimes there is greater value in understanding that in civil  conversation and discourse, we find our greatest strength of all.

"Thank you all for the four years you've given us. We now look forward to seeing what you will all accomplish - as leaders of our society, for many, many years to come."

In addition to the guest speakers, several individuals were recognized for their contributions to the University.

Emily Ann Weissgerber, a Biology major, was presented with the Herz Gold Medal for Outstanding Scholarship. Distinguished Nevadans were Judge Gregg Zive and the late Nevada Supreme Court Justice, Cliff Young. President's Medalists were Mark Knobel and Felicia O'Carroll. Honorary Degree recipients were Kristen Avansino and Fatih and Eren Ozmen.

In all, more than 2,710 degrees and certificates were presented during three ceremonies. The previous high for spring Commencement degrees and certificates was 2,454 from 2015.

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