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Graduates depart MU with advice from commencement speakers

Saturday, December 14, 2013 | 9:28 p.m. CST
Thousands of students received degrees from MU this weekend, including from the Sinclair School of Nursing, the Missouri School of Journalism, the School of Health Professions and the School of Natural Resources.

COLUMBIA — David Iseman and Dominic Caldarello have been friends since Caldarello was in kindergarten. They grew up a block away from each other and have worked at all of the same jobs.

On Saturday, Caldarello watched his best friend walk across the stage for the commencement ceremony of MU's College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. Caldarello screamed, "Way to go, Dave" so loudly that he followed his cheer with, "That hurt so bad."

More than 2,300 students received degrees from MU this weekend. The Honors College; the College of Human Environmental Sciences and the School of Social Work; the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources; the School of Health Professions; the College of Arts and Science; the School of Natural Resources; and the Graduate School held their commencement ceremonies on Saturday.

On Friday, the Sinclair School of Nursing, the Trulaske College of Business, the Missouri School of Journalism and the College of Engineering held their ceremonies.

Here are some highlights from Saturday:  

Honors College

Graduates taking pictures in their black gowns and mortarboards stood out against snow blanketing Francis Quadrangle and the MU Columns before the Honors College ceremony.

Standing in Jesse Auditorium less than an hour later, Larry McMullen, an MU alumnus who received an honorary degree, talked about how the Columns were preserved after Academic Hall burned down.

"Let the Columns stand. Let them stand for a thousand years," McMullen said, quoting Gideon Rothwell, who was the Board of Curators president at the time.

McMullen urged the "best and brightest" sitting in front of him to uphold the values the Columns represent — respect, responsibility, excellence and discovery.

The 295 students who graduated with honors received medallions engraved with a picture of the Columns.

College of Human Environmental Sciences, School of Social Work

As a director and actor in Greek Week and Homecoming skits for his fraternity, Tom Chase, 22, has been onstage many times in his years at MU. But the excitement and anxiety he felt before walking into Jesse Auditorium was different from what he usually feels onstage.

"You don't pass up walking across the stage to get your diploma, to shake your professors' hands," Chase said. "It's been one hell of a ride."

Chase graduated with a bachelor's degree in social work. Chase's parents and grandmother came to watch him graduate. Chase said his mother decorated her hotel room with banners and streamers.

"I felt like I was at a youth hockey tournament," Chase said. "The walls were just plastered with congratulations."

Commencement speaker Phil Bradley asked parents to have patience and grace if their son or daughter hadn't yet acquired a job in today's tough job market. 

"Life picks us," Bradley said.

Bradley is an ex-Major League Baseball player and has played with the Mariners, the Phillies, the Orioles and the White Sox. He played football and baseball while at MU and is an assistant MU softball coach.

He also spoke of how graduates should say yes to whatever is thrown their way, even if the opportunity is outside of their comfort zone. 

"It's OK to be afraid out there, but you have to have the courage to fail," Bradley said.

Chase said he is excited for the next step in his life — moving to Chicago and working for an informational technology recruiting company.

"Things are about to happen drastically," Chase said. "Change can be good or bad, but today it's good."

College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources

Every year, James Spain, vice provost of undergraduate studies, and Thomas Payne, CAFNR dean, have a competition — to elicit the loudest cheers from graduates and their well-wishers sitting in Hearnes Center.

Payne chanted M-I-Z, and Spain yelled Z-O-U. Payne said the commencement ceremony was not a time for solemnity, but rather celebration. After Spain jumped down from the stage to hype up the crowd, Payne joked, "They have a ramp right here for me."

After Payne declared himself the winner, he addressed the graduates with advice.

"You have the power every day to make somebody else's day," Payne said.

Payne encouraged graduates to choose to have a positive attitude and to neither brag nor complain to others, nor blame them.

College of Arts and Science

For Priya Chandel, 23, accepting her diploma was the continuation of a family tradition. Nearly every member of Chandel's extended family is an MU graduate, her cousin Vick Katoch said.

"It was so great to watch her walk across that stage," said Katoch, who graduated from MU in 2008.

Chandel and her fellow Arts and Science graduates received their degrees at Hearnes Center. Friends and family filled the first three tiers of arena seating. Provost Brian Foster delivered the opening remarks.

"Arts and science is about understanding the dynamics that make the world work," he said. "At a time when the world is in a state of tremendous flux, these fields are more important than ever."

School of Health Professions

"It's so surreal," said Makenzie Morock, 21, as she stood in the lobby of Jesse Hall after graduation. "I remember sitting in those same seats" — she pointed to the doors of Jesse Auditorium — "during Summer Welcome four years ago. And now I'm all done."

Morock was one of about 175 graduates who received degrees from the School of Health Professions on Saturday afternoon. As students crossed the stage in Jesse Auditorium, one especially enthusiastic mother waved black and gold pom-poms when her son's name was called.

Ellis Ingram, senior associate dean for diversity and inclusion at the MU School of Medicine, spoke at the ceremony. Stressing the importance of mentorship in his own career, Ingram challenged the assembled graduates to lead not just successful careers, but also "significant lives" — lives that encourage and inspire others to be their best.

"Every day, ask yourself: 'Am I the one?'" he said. "Ask yourself if you can be the person who makes a permanent change in the trajectory of someone else's life. Leave your comfort zone and discover where you are needed."

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.


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