June 13 was a pretty hot day, for Oregon in June at least. More than a thousand graduates packed into the New Physical Education gym to line up for the processional of the largest Commencement in Western Oregon University’s history. The graduates had to be pretty warm in their robes, but you wouldn’t have guessed it by looking at them because the room was filled with big smiles and happy people.
This year’s Commencement speaker was Peter Courtney, the Oregon Senate president and recently retired assistant to the president at WOU. Prior to Commencement, a naming ceremony was held to rename the Health and Wellness Center to the Peter Courtney Health and Wellness Center.
Per Courtney’s usual style, his speech was a mix of jokes and serious messages. Early in his speech he joked about the age difference between himself and the graduates. “I don’t know what’s worse, to turn 72 on this coming Thursday – June 18. Or have the graduating class that you’ve been asked to give the Commencement speech to cheer when they hear you’re not going to be up here long.”
The theme of his speech was to not live life in fear. “Don’t be afraid. Don’t be like me.” He quoted advice his beloved grandmother gave him when he was young. “Worry and fear are like a rocking chair. They’ll give you something to do, but you don’t get anywhere.” He urged graduates to not be afraid to make a decision, to not fear losing – try again, and don’t fear starting at the bottom.
After the processional, distinguished student leaders Michelle Garibay and Joseph Hahn did the presentation of colors. Graduating seniors Rachel Ammons, Laura Killip and Erin Westfall performed the National Anthem with American Sign Language interpreting by Tedi Massey. The program kicked off with a welcome by President Mark Weiss, who took a moment to take a picture of the crowd for WOU’s social media channels. It was not only a day to say farewell to WOU’s graduates, but an opportunity to wish Weiss the best before his retirement on June 30.
Former Governor Ted Kulongoski provided greetings from WOU’s inaugural Board of Trustees. Associated Students of Western Oregon University President Corbin Garner introduced three student award winners who gave brief remarks to the crowd: Eli Zachary (Delmer Dewey Award), Kylie Roth (Julia McCullock Smith Award), and Erica West Oyedele (Outstanding Graduate Student). Angie Docherty, interim associate campus dean for the Oregon Health Science University nursing program at WOU, introduced Kacie Svesko for her remarks. Svesko was this year’s OHSU Golden Lamp Award recipient. Before the long-awaited reading of the graduates’ names, this year’s Alumni Award of Excellence Winner, Lance Marr ’93, took the chance to shout “go Wolves!” when he was introduced.
Here are some demographics of our 158th graduating class:
- The graduating class of 2015 totals 1,313 (final number known in July once degrees have been evaluated following spring term)
- 87 percent of graduates are receiving a bachelor’s degree
- 13 percent of graduates are receiving a master’s degree
- Our youngest student receiving a bachelor’s degree is 19 years old
- Our youngest student receiving a master’s degree is 21 years old
- The most experienced graduate is 63 years young and receiving their bachelor’s degree. The most experienced student receiving a master’s degree is 62.
- Our graduates represent:
- 6 countries are represented: Australia, China, Egypt, Ghana, India, and Saudi Arabia
- 31 of 36 counties in Oregon
- The states of: Alaska (2), Arizona (4), California (21), Colorado (1), Hawaii (27), Idaho (4), Michigan (1), Minnesota (1), Nevada (3), New Mexico (2), New York (2), Ohio (1), Oklahoma (1), South Carolina (1), Texas (1), Vermont (1), Washington (52), and Washington DC (1), as well as 719 from Oregon. 17 states, plus DC
- 11 students have completed two bachelor degrees at the same time
- 14 students have a 4.00 cumulative GPA
- 103 students are graduating Summa sum laude (GPA above 3.8)
- 73 students are graduating Magna cum laude (GPA above 3.65)
- 98 students are graduating Cum laude (GPA above 3.5)
Miss the ceremony? You can watch it in full on wouTV. Check out a Storify of social media posts from graduates, their loved ones and the faculty and staff of WOU – all pulled from posts using the official Commencement hashtag: #wougrad. There’s a great photo album on Facebook and a nice write-up by the Statesman Journal. Also, if you’re faculty or staff – check out the photos from the annual Faculty and Staff Recognition Breakfast.