MU recognizes 2009 graduates

Saturday, May 16, 2009 | 9:01 p.m. CDT; updated 9:33 p.m. CDT, Saturday, May 16, 2009
Wesley Dandridge cheers along with friends and family during the Arts and Science graduation ceremony at Hearnes Center on Saturday. Dandridge received a bachelor's degree in sociology.

COLUMBIA – Some danced, some pumped fists. Some waved to friends and family, grins visible from the uppermost balconies. A few walked briskly, embarrassed by the attention.

To a soundtrack of applause, whistles and a few air horns, nearly 5,000 MU students will receive degrees over the three-day series of commencement ceremonies this weekend. Sixteen ceremonies – such as the largest College of Arts and Sciences graduation, the College of Medicine and the ROTC commissioning ceremony – were scattered across the MU campus. Guest speakers challenged graduates to pursue their passions despite a grim job market.

Spring Commencement 2009 by the numbers

  • 3,356 bachelor’s degrees
  • 1,052 master’s degrees
  • 301 professional degrees
  • 24 education specialist degrees
  • 230 doctorate degrees
  • Total: 4,963 degrees

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But for now, it was time to celebrate.

"It hasn't sunk in yet – it's surreal," Anne Rolwes, a finance major heading to law school in the fall, said after the Trulaske College of Business graduation ceremony on Friday.

Business school Dean Bruce Walker said that despite the economic worries, graduates should celebrate their achievement – for one week, maximum. "I don't want to hear about a two-year celebration," Walker joked.

MU System President Gary Forsee told business school graduates to be creative, resourceful and innovative, even during the "toughest of economic times."

"The desire to innovate should be contagious in every setting," Forsee said.

Graduates with departmental, division or Latin honors received additional recognition at the Honors Convocation on Saturday morning. Armed with lawn chairs, blankets and coffee, friends and family watched as graduates received a medal bearing the image of the Francis Quadrangle columns that provided the backdrop to the ceremony on the chilly, windy Saturday morning.

Many graduates expressed gratitude for support from parents, siblings, friends and faculty. Chelsea Brzuchalski, graduating with a physics education degree, credits her faculty mentor for helping her with countless aspects of her academic career, including choosing a major and learning teaching methods.

"It was fun to be (at the honors convocation) with my mentor – she's helped me the whole way through," Brzuchalski said.

John Bruton, former prime minister of Ireland and a European Union ambassador to the United States, received an honorary doctor of laws degree at the ceremony. In between making jokes at the Jayhawks' expense, Bruton encouraged the graduates to be global citizens and to never stray too far from their roots.

Maj. Gen. Gregg Martin, the commanding general of the U.S. Army Maneuver Support Center at Fort Leonard Wood, told graduates from the College of the Arts and Sciences to pursue their passions, especially in a world that is "complex, ambiguous, yet full of opportunity."

"I envy you for what you're going to do and how you're going to make the world a better place," Martin said.

At the College of Education graduation ceremony, Peter Stiepleman, principal of Columbia's West Boulevard Elementary School, shared two memorable lessons from his days as an English teacher before challenging graduates to "find elegant solutions to persistent problems."

"We need you to take what you've learned here at Mizzou and facilitate change," Stiepleman said.

Graduate school was next on the agenda for many of the new MU alums. Some said they had jobs or internships. Sharonda Taylor, who graduated with a psychology degree, said she wants to go to graduate school after taking time off to volunteer at a Columbia women's shelter.

Widespread excitement for graduation was also mixed with exhaustion from finals week – and beyond.

"I plan to catch up on my sleep from the last two years," Taylor said.

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