MU recognizes honors students, School of Medicine graduates on Saturday

Saturday, May 15, 2010 | 4:24 p.m. CDT; updated 5:24 p.m. CDT, Saturday, May 15, 2010

COLUMBIA ­– Gray skies and a constant drizzle Saturday meant MU’s honors convocation was held in the Mizzou Arena instead of outside at Francis Quadrangle, but even the dreary weather couldn’t diminish the excitement of graduates and their families.

Students and faculty began trickling into the arena bright and early Saturday morning, and by 8:15 a.m., the trickle turned into a steady stream of excited graduates. Students milled around the building, some waiting for friends and others pausing for a few minutes of serenity before entering the chaos.


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Brian Swift, who graduated with a degree in engineering and will move to Seattle to study for a doctoral degree at the University of Washington, took a moment to straighten his regalia before joining his classmates. His orange cords symbolized honors research in engineering, and he wore a green stole to represent his active support of the Society of Women Engineers.

MU employee and self-described non-traditional student Patty Luckenotte wore a beaming smile as she waited to receive recognition for her general studies degree, an accomplishment 18 years in the making.

Offering a pop of color in the sea of black gowns, journalism graduate Marina Shifrin caught the attention of her fellow graduates with her bright green sneakers and sunglasses.

“I wanted to look nice, but also spice it up a little,” she said.

Ryan Olson, a finance and banking graduate who will enter University of Missouri Kansas City's law school this fall, waited for a crowd of his Delta Upsilon fraternity brothers.

“It’s surprising for some people because a fraternity is a social thing, but here a bunch of us are at the honors graduation,” he said.

Before their medallions were presented, two honorary doctoral degree recipients acted as keynote speakers for the 1,192 students.

Leon Russell, president of the World Veterinary Association, advised students to give credit to others when good things happen and to take the blame for the bad.

Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, said she turned to her Facebook friends for inspiration when writing her speech. Among their suggestions: wear sunscreen (alluding to a column by Chicago Tribune writer Mary Schmich) and trust your brain.

But while she stressed the necessity of asking questions and using reason, she also emphasized the importance of using one’s heart when making tough decisions.

At 2:30 p.m. in Jesse Hall, the 2010 class of the MU School of Medicine gathered for their commencement ceremony.

They selected two students to address the crowd, and new graduate Ted Thomas welcomed students, families and friends.

“When I found out I was going to be giving this speech, I turned to my best two sources of information: Google and my mother,” he said.

His mother suggested finding a good quote, Thomas said, and Google did the rest.

He chose Sir Winston Churchill’s quote, “We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give,” to represent the class, and he asked his classmates to remember everything they gave each other over the years.

Graduate Matt Johnson was chosen as the class speaker, and his advice drew from personal experience working in the hospital. He told of a woman dying of breast cancer who, when asked what the hardest part of her situation was, said it was losing her hair. His surprise at the answer taught him a lesson, he said, and he urged his fellow graduates to remember to ask questions and listen to the answers.

Alexander Garza, assistant secretary for health affairs and chief medical officer for the Department of Homeland Security and a 1996 graduate of the medical school, gave the keynote address.

Garza’s address kept the crowd chuckling at jokes and anecdotes, but he also delivered some heartfelt advice.

“Now that you have success, be humble, not arrogant,” he said. “You’ve acquired a substantial amount of knowledge here at MU, but remember that you don’t know everything.”

Garza ended his address with the same advice he gave to his staff in Washington, D.C.: “Go forth and do good things."

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