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The skies parted between spring storms to allow for a nearly perfect commencement Saturday, May 10, in Western State Colorado University’s Mountaineer Bowl.
Western’s class of 2014 hails from 39 states and eight countries. It includes 35 students earning graduate degrees and 363 undergraduate students. True to Western form, many decorated their mortar boards and offered a variety of wild gestures as they received their diplomas from Western’s new president, Dr. Greg Salsbury.
Student keynote speaker Amber Leal announced she was taking the first selfie picture from the commencement stage with her smartphone and proceeded to do so before offering her words to fellow grads. At least one other student followed, posing briefly with Gov. John Hickenlooper before exiting the stage with his diploma.
Hickenlooper outlined the wandering route his own career took, beginning with his last-minute changes in direction at Weslyan College. On his way to earning an English degree, he discovered Geology, and ended up staying so long at the school to complete a master’s degree in that discipline that one of his professors suggested he should be granted tenure. But after five years as a petroleum geologist, Hickenlooper lost his job in a recession, bought a red Malibu convertible, drove to visit his brother in California and discovered there the concept of the modern brew pub. He went on to start Colorado’s first and largest such restaurant, Wynkoop Brewing Company in Denver. He went on to become Denver’s mayor, and eventually, governor.
“What advice I have amounts to this,” he said. “Remember how hard you've worked. Cherish your western degree. Remember how valuable the support of your family and friends was to your success, and use it when you need it. Remember you have persevered, most importantly. When times get tough, when you feel challenged, remember that you have it in you to persevere.”
Earlier, Leal recounted the challenges she faced leaving her home in Oklahoma to come to a remote valley. At Western, she said, all learned the discipline to ignore a powder day and study, to rely on each other, to question and to seek answers.
“We all now have a special toughness and the ability to question everything, with the resources to seek out answers,” said Leal, a Psychology graduate. “In short, I hope you remember the importance is in the journey.
“ ... Wherever you are going, remember there is nothing in this world you cannot do because you are a Western State Colorado University Mountaineer. And no matter where the road leads from here, there is no changing where our hearts lie. Because we are Western!”
If you missed the ceremony, you can still see Governor Hickenlooper's inspirational commencement address and the graduation antics in the online video of Western's 2014 graduation here.
2014 Graduation Photos (click for full-size images):