Bemidji State University celebrated 1,034 new college graduates in front of a capacity crowd of family, friends and supporters at its 97th Commencement ceremony.
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BSU’s Class of 2016 featured:
- 49 master’s degree recipients. BSU awarded its first 13 master of business administration degrees, four masters of special education, three masters of arts in teaching, seven masters of arts and 19 masters of science;
- 245 undergraduates who graduated with honors, including 47 Summa Cum laude honorees, 92 Magna Cum Laude honorees and 106 Cum Laude honorees;
- 726 students who were eligible to receive undergraduate degrees, including 53 bachelor of arts recipients, 6 bachelor of fine arts recipients, 647 bachelor of science recipients and 20 bachelor of applied science recipients; and
- 14 associate in arts degrees recipients.
Dr. Richard A. Hanson, president of BSU and Northwest Technical College, addressed graduates for the last time before his upcoming retirement in June after a six-year presidency.
He shared BSU’s commitment to the Campus Compact’s Civic Action Plan. Hanson is one of nearly 400 Campus Compact member presidents and chancellors who have signed the Campus Compact 30th Anniversary Action Statement, a document which the compact says “contains strong language about the public obligations of higher education that commits campuses to taking specific steps to deepen their engagement for the benefit of students, communities, and the broader public.”
Hanson implored graduates to join in this call for service, saying the world needed people committed to building a service-oriented world that supported
Addressing Today’s Graduates
Bemidji State University’s Class of 2016 was addressed by Jay Coles, a member of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Board of Trustees; United States Senator Amy Klobuchar; graduating BSU Student Senate President Brittany Hull; by BSU Alumni & Foundation Board President Carol Russell on behalf of the university’s more than 45,000 alumni, and by Dr. Darby and Geri Nelson, recipients of BSU’s 34th Distinguished Minnesotans award.
Coles brought greetings to the Class of 2016 from the system and its board of trustees.
“Today you are a tangible reminder to me and my fellow trustees of the things we believe in,” he said. “We believe in the power of higher education to help people create a brighter further for themselves, their families and their communities. We believe in the extraordinary education our faculty and staff offer our students inside and outside of the classroom. And graduates of Class of 2016, we believe in you.”
Hull spoke on behalf of all students, and thanked the graduating class for the opportunity it had given her to serve as Student Senate president.
“This adventure has been amazing and so much more,” she said. “I will always remember my time here at BSU. We can’t disagree that BSU has been the best decision ever.”
Russell welcomed the Class of 2016 into the family of more than 45,000 BSU alumni across the country who have paved the way for the opportunity they enjoy today to become graduates. She reminded graduates that someday they’ll have the opportunity to help pave the way for others.
“In the coming months and years, you will have countless opportunities to give back,” she said. “When those things happen, you will be and are needed.”
U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar
U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar asked BSU’s graduates to value all of their experiences and to take them seriously, recounting how her own first job as an intern for then-Vice President Mondale, while not what she hoped, helped prepare her for her future.
“I had to do furniture inventory. I had to climb under every lamp and sofa and chair and write down serial numbers,” she said. “That was my first job in Washington; this was my second. Take those first jobs seriously.”
She reminded graduates that the world has significant challenges for them to solve, including the challenge of treating each other with dignity and respect. A college education, she said, provides graduates with a strong foundation for meeting that challenge.
“When you come to a place like Bemidji State University, you meet people from other countries and other backgrounds, and you learn to deal with each other in a different way,” she said. “It’s important for a democracy that we have that to take out into the world.
“Your family and your friends and your great teachers here are now placing the world in the palm of your hands,” she said. “You have the education to do us good. Have fun and celebrate with your friends and family, then go out there and make the world a better place.”
2016 Distinguished Minnesotans
Dr. Darby and Geri Nelson delivered this year’s commencement address as this year’s Distinguished Minnesotans.
Darby Nelson spoke of his family’s deep connection to Bemidji, which includes his father – a graduate of what was then known as Bemidji State Teachers College. He told graduates to be mindful of the changing world, a world far different than he or his family inherited when they graduated from college themselves, and spoke of the challenges brought by the planet’s move into the Anthropocene Epoch – the Age of Humans.
“For most of history, nature has ruled. That is no longer true,” Darby said. “There are lots of challenges to work out, and we all have much to do.”
The Nelsons spoke of the value of planning, both in life and in finances, and the vast opportunities that planning has allowed them to enjoy throughout their lives. Geri Nelson recounted a canoeing trip the couple had taken through Alaska early in their marriage. Some supplies left behind forced the couple to improvise, with Darby carving a pair of spoons for their use. Those spoons, Geri said, provided a life-changing lesson in living simply that they have carried with them for decades.
Their simple living, Geri said, had allowed them the freedom to pass their opportunity to others through a dedication to philanthropy and giving.
“Through our thrifty habits, knowledge and growth, our savings grew past what we needed,” Geri said. “Wouldn’t it be fun to make a real difference?”
She said the pair started small, but have reached a point in their lives where they have the capability to make significant financial contributions to causes important to them.
“We dreamed of the time we could give more – and that time has come,” she said.
Cum Laude honors
The practice of recognizing outstanding academic achievement with Cum Laude honors dates to the earliest European college and university practices in the 13th century. Summa Cum Laude denotes graduates with cumulative grade point averages of 3.90 or higher; Magna Cum Laude recognizes those with GPAs between 3.70 and less than 3.90; and Cum Laude recognizes those with GPAs between 3.50 and less than 3.70.