Bemidji Pioneer: ‘Century class’ graduates at BSU

BEMIDJI — The flag of Bosnia and Herzegovina; “Keep Calm and Put Your Lab Coat On”; “TRUMP,” and, from the College of Business, Science, and Mathematics: “Finally done with this B.S.”

Wearing personalized caps, leis, beadwork, and more, more than 1,220 students graduated from Bemidji State University on Friday afternoon.

“You will amaze yourselves when you realize what you can achieve for yourselves, for the communities where you choose to live, and even for the entire world,” said Faith Hensrud, the university’s president. “And I want you to create your path knowing that Bemidji State University will be behind you every step of the way.”

The commencement was the university’s 100th, and Hensrud, who noted four students graduated from Bemidji Normal School in 1919, congratulated the university’s “century class” to raucous applause rivaled only by one for veterans and servicemembers in attendance.

BSU leaders named Alan Page, the college and professional football icon who went on to earn a spot on the Minnesota Supreme Court, the school’s 37th “Distinguished Minnesotan.”

“Like the path that brought me to this moment, the path that each of you take to the future will provide an opportunity to accomplish that which you never thought possible,” Page said during his commencement speech.

“The key to whatever success I may have had in life can be found in an unwillingness to be satisfied with playing to the level of the competition, a willingness to push beyond my own self-perceived limitations, a willingness to be involved in the community around me, and in preparation.”

Page also railed against “aggressive” incivility, political bullying, and lying or half-truths — “none of us is entitled to our own facts” — which he said are a “clear and present danger to our collective future” and symptomatic of a decline in national character.

“We cannot afford to have lying become normalized,” Page said.

He told the assembled graduates that they will be forced to renew and re-evaluate their character again and again, and said everyone has an obligation to build the character of those around them by being honest, keeping promises, considering others and treating them and themselves with respect.

“It means working to figure out the difference between right and wrong, and then doing what is right,” Page said to a round of applause. “The outward differences which identify us as individuals do not define the content of our character. That is defined by how we act on an ongoing basis…Consciously applying the values learned here at Bemidji State will serve you well as you strive to be a person of good character.”

University staff said 1,221 students graduated with the class of 2019, 1,161 of whom received an undergraduate degree and 60 of whom received a graduate degree. A total of 42 American Indian students earned a graduate or undergraduate degree.