Record-breaking class leaves WOU

amanda litzinger
Above, Amanda Litzinger receives her diploma during the 156th commencement ceremony for Western Oregon University on Saturday. / TIMOTHY J. GONZALEZ / Statesman Journal

By Justin Much
Statesman Journal (click for photo album and video)

MONMOUTH — Western Oregon University celebrated a record-breaking graduating class Saturday.

The class of 2013 had 1,370 graduates, eclipsing last year’s by 141 students.

Turnout for the midday commencement was a standing-room only crowd that filled the stadium and McArther Field and spilled into a shady grove across the street and even into the gymnasium where the ceremony was broadcast.

Speakers included WOU President Mark Weiss, who presided over the ceremony, David Yaden of the Oregon State Board of Higher Education, Delmar Dewey Award recipient Trevor Roush, Julia McCulloch Smith Award recipient Amanda Litzinger, Oregon Health Sciences University nursing school graduate Amy Crain and 1995 WOU graduate Claire Oliveros, who gave the commencement address.

The record number of walking grads included Merryn Givens, who gave birth to her second child Thursday.

Oliveros urged her classmates to embrace challenges and change as bridges to opportunity.

“Change is inevitable,” she said. “It’s the very thing that reminds us that we are alive, and (life is) full of possibilities.”

She also quoted Maya Angelou:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

That selection wove well with Litzinger’s earlier call for kindness, a theme that echoed throughout her address.

“Wherever you go from here, be proud of how you’ve treated people,” implored Litzinger, who evoked her own quotation from Amelia Earhart: “A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees.”

Crain, speaking for the first OHSU nursing program at WOU class to go through commencement, also spoke to kindness within the context and spirit of the profession, putting patients first and improving the quality of life for everyone.

“Find your passion and do the right thing,” Weiss summarized. “That’s the common theme I’ve heard from our speakers today.”

jmuch@StatesmanJournal.com or (503) 399-6736, cell (503) 508-8157 or follow at twitter.com/justinmuch

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