COLUMBIA — Mizzou Alumni Association President Jim Gwinner had one parting congratulations as he addressed graduates at the Honors Ceremony:
"Welcome to the west side of Faurot Field," he said.
Gwinner was referring to a football tradition, in which students sit on the east side of the football stadium Faurot Field and alumni and guests sit on the west side. When chanting, the students shout, "M-I-Z," and the alumni and guests shout, "Z-O-U."
MU planned to distribute degrees to 5,292 graduates on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Seven commencements and ceremonies took place Saturday in Jesse Auditorium, Hearnes Center and Mizzou Arena.
Saturday's events included the Honors Ceremony and commencements for the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, the College of Arts and Science the College of Education, the Graduate School, the School of Medicine and the School of Natural Resources.
Stephanie Linneman, a 2011 MU graduate of the Trulaske College of Business, watched as her fiance, Nathan Matt, was recognized for his academic achievements Saturday morning.
Matt, 23, received his master's degree in accounting this weekend, about a month before he and Linneman will marry in St. Louis.
Their wedding will be black-and-gold themed in honor of their alma mater.
"I'm very proud," Linneman said. "He worked really hard for this."
Linneman and others in Mizzou Arena watched as 1,319 students eligible to graduate with honors were recognized at the Honors Ceremony. The graduates and faculty mentors, whom the graduates selected to accompany them, filled the seats on the arena's floor and overflowed into the first two rows of the permanent seating.
At the ceremony, MU awarded an honorary degree of letters to the speaker, creative nonfiction writer Peter Hessler. A graduate of Hickman High School, Hessler has won awards for his books about China, where he was stationed in the Peace Corps and then worked as a freelance journalist. He also taught freshman composition classes at MU for two years.
In his speech, Hessler called his experience in China through the Peace Corps life-changing and encouraged graduates to take risks and leave their comfort zones.
But he also talked about remaining connected to MU. In China, students don't have a strong connection to their alma maters, he said.
"Range widely, but stay in touch," he advised the graduates.
College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources
The morning of his graduation, Preston Reuter, 22, was missing two graduation essentials: his tassel and his tie.
While Reuter, who received his bachelor's degree in agribusiness management, retrieved these items, his sister Christen Stark and the rest of his large family scrambled to get everyone in the same place, so they could watch her youngest brother graduate.
"We're willing to do it because we're so proud of the work it took for him to get here today," Stark said.
Reuter was one of 382 students who received degrees from the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources on Saturday. When Dean Thomas Payne addressed the graduates, he advised them to take care of these degrees when they leave and face challenges as the world's population and demand for food increase.
"It's like exercising," he said. "If you stop, you go back to the way you were before."
The speech from Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., addressed how to tackle these challenges with advice he gave his children: Life is about trajectory.
By that, he means when one sets sights a bit higher, unexpected things happen. This can be done every day, he said, and the commencement celebrated graduates doing that at MU.
College of Arts and Science
Bradley Haberstroh received more than a bachelor's degree in political science Saturday.
Because Haberstroh, 22, transferred to MU for his sophomore year, he had to take more credits each semester than the average student, said his mother, Linda. His father, Bart, bought a Jeep Wrangler and told his son he could have the vehicle if he still graduated in four years.
The Jeep Wrangler is sitting in the driveway of the family's house in St. Charles, waiting for Bradley Haberstroh when he returns.
"We put a big gold bow on it this morning," Linda Haberstroh said.
Bradley Haberstroh was among many students who received degrees from MU's largest college, the College of Arts and Science. The college had one of its graduates return to speak: Boone County Circuit Judge Kevin Crane, who graduated with bachelor's degrees in speech and dramatic arts in 1983.
Crane told the graduates that the next day would mark the beginning of an adjustment period. He encouraged the graduates to do something, even if it could lead to failure.
"Anyone who doesn't experience rejection and failure is not trying," he said.
Crane advised graduates to deal with rejection with a sense of humor, and he used his own sense of humor to give the graduates one final piece of advice:
"Be careful tonight," he said. "MUPD's crawling all over this joint, and I don't want to see any of you in my courtroom Monday morning."