People anticipated many things in the days heading into the 2018 Spring Commencement ceremonies at the University, not the least of which was the weather.
Even with variable weather prior to Thursday's ceremony, which at one point threatened to move the ceremony indoors to Lawlor Events Center (but thankfully never did), the overall feeling after the conclusion of Saturday's ceremony on a sun-splashed Quad was that of jubilation and celebration.
Assemblyman Jason Frierson, one of four featured speakers during the four ceremonies, who spoke during Friday morning's ceremony, might've put it best. Frierson, a 1996 graduate of the University, noted that graduation can often be the first step in finding professional fulfillment. A nice byproduct of that fulfillment, he said, was fun.
"I would encourage you to find what makes you happy ... find ways to make your career enjoyable," he said. "Have fun with it, and have fun with us, your new colleagues. By doing this, you are helping ensure longevity for yourself in your career, and you are helping the rest of us remember what it is to be a graduate, how fortunate we are to have such great people as colleagues."
The University's 128th Commencement conferred 3,137 degrees, the largest amount of degrees conferred in a semester. The four ceremonies were: Thursday, College of Engineering, Orvis School of Nursing and College of Science; Friday morning, College of Business and the Division of Health Sciences; Friday afternoon, College of Agriculture, Biotechnology & Natural Resources and the College of Education; Saturday, College of Liberal Arts and the Reynolds School of Journalism.
Awards and honors presented included: The Herz Gold Medal for Outstanding Scholarship, which was awarded to Allison Monterey Blair, anthropology and English dual-major with minors in historic preservation and museum studies, during Saturday morning's ceremony; on Friday afternoon, John Farahi and Stacie Mathewson were honored with Honorary Degrees and John Kenneth Creighton was awarded the President's Medal; Friday afternoon, Frank McCulloch and Joyce Anderson Bock were honored as Distinguished Nevadans.
McCulloch, the legendary journalist who graduated from the University in 1941, passed away earlier in the week at age 98.
A total of 2,520 bachelor degrees, 549 advanced-degree certificates (master's and doctoral degrees) and 68 University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine degrees were awarded.
President Marc Johnson praised the graduates for their tenacity in reaching Commencement. He urged the graduates to go out and make a difference in their communities.
"Your time here has been not just about what you've learned in the classroom ... although this is very important," he said. "Your time here has also been about how you can apply this experience to your life and your world outside of the classroom.
"We hope that by immersing yourself in the highly collaborative, experiential learning environment that we offer, you've taken the first important steps in immersing yourself in your communities once you leave our campus.
"It's important that with your degree in hand, you use it to its best possible measure, which is to improve the lives of those around you."
Jeff Ceccarelli, a 1976 graduate, former president of Sierra Pacific Power Co., and the featured speaker during Thursday's ceremony, told the audience that confidence - which often comes after four years of rigorous study at the University - is one of the defining characteristics of a successful graduate. He said successful graduates, "... believe in themselves. Confidence resides at the intersection of preparation and persistence. It's not just a state of mind, but the result of hard work and the knowledge that no matter what the challenge, you can rise to the occasion. Confident people are like magnets. They attract and enable others."
Former Regent Kevin Melcher, a 1979 graduate and longtime Nevada educator, told the graduates on Friday afternoon that the University, even with its rapid growth over the past several years, had nevertheless managed to find the fine line that also allowed it to celebrate its tradition. He told the assembled group that it was this sense of moving forward, while also honoring the past, which would help set the Class of 2018 apart.
He encouraged the Class of 2018 to think locally, which would, in turn, will only help strengthen Reno and northern Nevada.
"One of the most important things you have helped with while at the University of Nevada, Reno is transforming Reno into a ‘University Town,'" he said. "Some of you have been involved directly with planning, but it is the regular involvement by students and designing of activities in conjunction with the City of Reno that has helped create the ‘University Town' feeling and collaboration. This momentum that all of you have helped drive will continue to strengthen the entire higher education environment in northern Nevada."
Lauralyn McCarthy, a 1992 graduate of the Reynolds School of Journalism, spoke on Saturday.
Although she was speaking to Liberal Arts and Journalism graduates, McCarthy made a much broader point -- how a well-rounded education can prove to be the difference in achieving professional success and in understanding a dynamic and ever-changing world. McCarthy's words were especially profound, given her more than two decades of success as an executive in the tech sector.
"The future isn't STEM it is STEAM: Science, technology, engineering, ARTS and math," she said. "In a world moving into the Fourth Industrial Revolution or Industry 4.0 driven largely by Cyber: AI, machine learning, the Edge of the Internet, blockchain, augmented reality, driverless cars, drones and robots.
"Your instruction, training and skill sets are more important than ever. You are the arbiters of humanity.
"You see the world with a humanistic view looking for truth with an ethical core and weighing today's decisions with a foundational knowledge of history: its greatest moments, its most turbulent times, and moments of pure evil against our fellow man."