MARSHALL - It marked the end of their studies, but it was also a new beginning, students and speakers at Southwest Minnesota State University said Saturday. A total of 647 graduates celebrated getting their degrees during commencement ceremonies for the Class of 2012.
In a speech to graduates, SMSU interim President Ron Wood drew on the example of the Robert Frost poem, "The Road Not Taken." It would be up to graduates to choose their new path in life, he said.
"Today is not the end of a story so much as reaching the end of a chapter," Wood said. "Tomorrow will be a new and exciting chapter."
Photo by Deb Gau
Samantha Eicke glances up at the crowd while Southwest Minnesota State University students assembled for commencement ceremonies on Saturday.
Thunder and lightning from Saturday's rainstorms lent a little extra drama to the ceremonies, as new graduates walked across the stage to receive their diplomas. But it didn't dampen spirits for graduates looking back at their time at SMSU.
"It's been good," new graduate Kristen Buldhaupt said of her time at the university.
Graduate Nathan Krekelberg, originally from Blaine, said college was a personal learning experience as well as an academic one.
"Marshall was very different from other places I'd lived. The adjustment was kind of hard at first," Krekelberg said. But once he got to know the area and the people, he said SMSU was a good place to be.
In Saturday's commencement address, Thomas Jackson, a 1985 SMSU alumnus, and now the vice president for student affairs at the University of Louisville, congratulated graduates on their accomplishments. He reminded graduates of the last time he spoke to them, a convocation address he gave for the incoming freshman class in 2008. In addition, Jackson had some simple words of advice for the graduates.
"Be adventurous. Being adventurous is part of being alive on this earth," Jackson said. "Be honest. Be kind. Be humble." He also urged students to be ready to offer a hand to the people who come after them.
Jackson's commencement address also focused on the joy of learning and doing new things.
Looking out across the assembly Saturday, a few students could be seen with homemade decorations on their mortarboard caps, wearing flamboyant shoes, or just trying to keep cool while wearing graduate's robes. Danielle McClain of Hastings had covered her cap in pink and purple rhinestones.
"I did it to match my shoes," she said. McClain had also coated her high heels in pink glitter. She joked that the extra sparkle in her outfit would make it easier to see her in the crowd.
Many graduates will be starting job searches, or going on to graduate school. Buldhaupt, a Lake Wilson resident, said she would be looking for work in the Marshall area before possibly continuing her education. Mary Gault of Alexandria said she would likely go back to school as well. Krekelberg, who was graduating with a double major in philosophy and psychology, said he wasn't completely sure what was next for him.
Besides looking for work, he said, "Maybe I'll join the Peace Corps."