By John Trent
A record number of degrees conferred in one semester – 3,201 – highlighted the University’s 129th Commencement on May 16-18.
Four ceremonies held over three days in Lawlor Events Center saw 2,587 bachelor degrees, 551 advanced degrees and 63 School of Medicine degrees presented.
In his remarks to the Class of 2019, President Marc Johnson counseled the University’s graduates to continue on the path of productivity.
“With so much that’s happened during your time here, you might think it would be wise to take a breather,” he said. “Class of 2019, catch your breath for a moment … but don’t stop.”
Johnson said the Class of 2019 are living in an “interesting and challenging time,” one in which the multitude of experiences they’ve had while students at the University will prove valuable. He said that by virtue of working in collaborative and productive fashion with other people, the University’s graduates were now in a position to help bind some of the division that often occurs when individuals become isolated from their communities.
“While your own experience has been one of a healthy multitude of people who have shared experiences and stories, there are people who choose to go a different direction,” Johnson said. “They become isolated. They drift off into the extreme digital echo chambers where hate is common and scapegoating mistrust is constant.” He added later, “This is why a day like today is so important. We stand together. We choose goodness. We choose grace. We choose love.”
Maritz Perez, who was the guest speaker during Thursday’s ceremony for the Donald W. Reynolds School of Journalism and the College of Liberal Arts, offered similar sentiments. Perez, a 2010 University graduate who is a Senior Policy Analyst for Criminal Justice Reform at the Center for American Progress (CAP) in Washington, D.C., was a first-generation college student when she came to the University from Elko, Nevada.
“I challenge you to use your voice and bring your perspective to any room you find yourself in, particularly if your perspective is not represented in the room,” she said. “For me, it took a long time to learn that what I have to say matters. And I’m telling you now: what you have to say matters. You have something to offer. Speak up.”
The other guest speakers included Paul J. Caudill, former CEO of NV Energy, Julie Robinson (‘96 Ph.D. Ecology, Evolution and Conservation Biology), the Chief Scientist for the International Space Station (ISS) at NASA, and Dr. Timothy Ricks, a rear admiral who received his master of public health degree from the University who serves as the Chief Dental Officer of the U.S. Public Health Service as well as Assistant Surgeon General.
Kyle Murray, a College of Science graduate in general mathematics and analytical chemistry, was the recipient of the Spring 2019 Herz Gold Medal for having earned the highest grade-point average, a 4.0.
Distinguished Nevadans included two former Nevada governors, Robert List and Brian Sandoval, plus Basque Studies Program founder William Douglass and longtime White Pine County physician George Christensen.
President’s Medals for individuals who have contributed substantial service on behalf of the University were awarded to Sara Lafrance, who holds a B.A. degree in English/Journalism from the University, and who co-founded and served as president of Century Analysis, a software manufacturer that provided integration solutions to large commercial, industrial and healthcare enterprises, and Caudill.
Sarah Cummings, an 11-year faculty member and also director of the core curriculum, was awarded the Paul and Judy Bible Teaching Excellent Award winner. The award is presented annually to recognize and reward outstanding teaching.
Due to variable, cold weather, this year’s Commencement was moved to Lawlor from the Quad.