Bemidji State University Celebrates the Graduating Class of 2024

More than 1,000 graduating students celebrated the end of this step in their lifelong academic journeys at Bemidji State University’s 105th Commencement ceremonies.

BSU’s Class of 2024 was celebrated in a pair of May 3 sessions at Bemidji’s Sanford Center. A 10 a.m. ceremony honored graduates from BSU’s College of Arts, Education and Humanities and College of Business, Mathematics and Science, with a 1 p.m. ceremony for graduates from programs in the College of Individual and Community Health.

Distinguished Minnesotan Mike Roberge

Distinguished Minnesotan Mike Roberge

BSU’s Commencement address was delivered by Mike Roberge, chair and CEO of Boston-based MFS Investment Services. Roberge, a 1990 BSU graduate, reflected on his own journey from small-town, rural Minnesota to running a financial services company that manages a portfolio of $625 billion.

Roberge reflected on his journey as one of six children from a rural, southern Minnesota community who worked jobs at his father’s gas station and a family farm which “were not rewarding and encouraged me to want to go to college.”

His message to graduates emphasized that an education from BSU could take them anywhere they could dream.

“I sit on the 35th floor of a high-rise building in Boston, and out of my widow is the Charles River that separates Boston and Cambridge,” he said. “From there I can see two universities — Harvard and MIT. Who knew that MFS, this storied Boston firm, could be led by a graduate of Bemidji State University?

“Our firm hires employees from the best institutions in the world,” he said. “I have never felt inferior and have always been able to compete at a high level in my career. BSU has provided you with the tools to be successful.”

He also shared what he said was the one piece of advice he gives to people when asked how they can be successful in an organization.

“Be a great teammate every day and make the others around you better,” he said. “Those who excel are not the ones who compete internally or spend all day trying to look good to the boss. But they lead by making everyone else better.”

Roberge, whose contributions to BSU have helped more than 110 students attend college, also encouraged graduates to give back and support others in return for the support they have received throughout their own journeys.

“I would not have gone to BSU without financial aid; my parents would never have been able to afford to send me,” he said. “I will never, ever forget the impact it made on my success.”

Roberge addressed BSU’s graduates as the 40th recipient of BSU’s Distinguished Minnesotan award. First presented in 1981, the award acknowledges the contributions of current or former residents of the state who have performed exemplary service to the people of Minnesota or the United States.

President Hoffman’s Remarks to Graduates

President Hoffman addresses the Class of 2024
John L. Hoffman, President, Bemidji State University and NTC

John L. Hoffman, president of Bemidji State University and Northwest Technical College, reminded graduates to be proud of what they had accomplished by earning a college degree.

“Let me be clear: BSU does not just give out degrees,” he said. “You have earned your space here today. You belong.”

He also encouraged graduates to take what they had earned

“Tell your Bemidji State story, your story of coming here and receiving an exceptional education from faculty who love to teach. You have that responsibility — to take this forward and change the world.”

Student Speakers

Graduating seniors Sarah Kessler, an accounting graduate from Grand Rapids, Minn., and Matthew Merkeling, a communication studies graduate from Elk River, Minn., delivered remarks to their fellow graduates as student speakers.

Sarah Kessler

BSU student Sarah Kessler addresses Class of 2024

Kessler, who addressed graduates at the 10 a.m. ceremony, encouraged her fellow graduates to be aware of the opportunities that surround them every day.

“Opportunity is a strange thing,” she said. “All of us are looking for it at the same time as we can give it to someone else. We are graduating because of opportunities someone gave us. Others will graduate in the future because of opportunities we give them.”

She said the opportunities they could share could be as simple as sharing knowledge, including others in decisions or introducing people to their own mentors.

“Leverage the place you are already at to create opportunities for others to be successful, too,” she said. “You need to set goals in order to reach them. Set big goals and define your own success. I believe success comes when you live your life with purpose and you make your choices with intent.”

Matthew Merkling

Matt Merkling speaks to the Class of 2024
Matthew Merkling

Merkling, who addressed graduates at the 1 p.m. ceremony, encouraged graduates to celebrate the relationships they’ve made, to celebrate their own accomplishments, and to celebrate themselves.

“Connections are so important. The relationships you have forged here will be meaningful for the rest of your lives,” he said.

He encouraged graduates to overcome any hesitation to accept complements or to downplay their own achievements.

“You have all worked so hard to be here today,” he said. “Earning a degree is something to be proud of. It shows dedication, work ethic, perseverance, time management — and these things are all required on top of the knowledge you’ve gained in classes.

“You’ve received an award that says you won,” he said of the graduates and their newly conferred degrees. “Celebrate the fact that you’re here. You’re stronger, wiser and more capable than when you began.”

Other Speakers

The Class of 2024 was also greeted on behalf of the Minnesota State system of colleges and universities by Roger Moe, chair of the system’s Board of Trustees. Doug Fredrickson, president of the BSU Alumni and Foundation board, gave the ceremony’s final remarks and welcomed graduates into the Alumni Association.

Class of 2024 By the Numbers

BSU’s class of 2024 earned:

  • 84 Graduate degrees
  • 807 Bachelor of Science degrees
  • 82 Bachelor of Arts degrees
  • 53 Bachelor of Applied Science degrees
  • 10 Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees
  • 23 Associate’s Degrees
  • 45 certificates

A total of 512 graduates were recognized for graduating with academic honors:

  • 190 students graduated with Summa Cum Laude honors
  • 189 students graduated with Magna Cum Laude honors
  • 123 students graduated with Cum Laude honors

BSU also recognized 14 graduates of its McNair Scholars program and four graduates of its Honors Program. In addition, more than 40 military veterans or active-duty service members, along with 19 international students representing 15 nations, earned degrees.

Academic Honors

Graduating students are recognized for outstanding academic achievement through their careers by being granted commencement honors. This practice dates back to Europe’s earliest colleges and universities in the 13th Century. Summa Cum Laude is the highest honor, denoting a student who graduates with an overall grade-point average of 3.90 or higher. Magna Cum Laude honors are bestowed on graduates with GPAs of no less than 3.75 but less than 3.90. Cum Laude honors are bestowed on graduates with GPAs between 3.50 and 3.75.

Fall classes begin Monday, August 26, 2024. To learn more or to register for classes, visit

2024 Commencement Photo Gallery