Dean of Students to Graduates: Travel Light, But Commit Self Heavily

Saturday, December 10 2011


MOSCOW, Idaho – Fair skies and crisp temperatures were outside the University of Idaho’s iconic ASUI-Kibbie Activity Center today. Inside, winter graduates from the university looked to a bright future.

“You have gained skills and knowledge to take into the market place,” said commencement speaker Bruce Pitman, vice provost for academic affairs and dean of students. “You’ve also learned much about yourself. Your world view changed when you traveled abroad to study or to do service.”

Pitman told graduates that their service and volunteer work in communities such as Gary, Indiana, Washington, D.C., Oakland, Calif., and in countries such as Ghana, Cambodia, Costa Rica, Romania and Peru helped transform them into global citizens and helped them prepare for life and work in a global economy.

He paid special tribute to several groups of students, including first-generation students for the example of success and joy they brought to their families. He also thanked military veterans among the graduates, some of whom have served multiple deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“Thanks to the faculty who have challenged you, inspired you, encouraged you and celebrated your successes,” he said. “They’ve taught you how to learn. Now it’s time for you to go.”

University President M. Duane Nellis said the university, from its 70 sites statewide, helps people by “actively educating and assisting Idaho’s citizens.”

Nellis told the students that the University of Idaho has empowered them to do tremendous things and urged them to take the “opportunity to shape the future” through their leadership and innovation.

Pitman said the university’s connected community also helped with the students’ transformation.

“Once you were here, we talked about making good choices and telling you that we deeply cared about your success,” he said.

Pitman, who spoke from a podium that has been part of the university since 1912, wove humor and recollections into his remarks, eliciting dome-wide laughter.

At the university, students learned “to separate your dark clothes from the whites and colored clothes. Some of you didn’t and looked like freshmen for awhile,” he said.

He urged graduates to “travel light for the next few years” and use the next stage of their journey to commit heavily to make investments in special things:

• Invest in yourself: “Life only becomes more challenging and complex.”

• Invest in your family: “They have given you much and it’s payback time. They may not be with you as long as you expect.”

• Invest in something bigger than yourself: “This may sound strange, but I hope that your heart will be broken by some social issue to the extent that you will be moved to take action.”

The winter commencement ceremony also saw an honorary doctorate of natural resources conferred upon Janet DeVlieg-Pope, president of the DeVlieg Foundation, a nonprofit that gives young engineers educational opportunities. Prior to her work with the foundation, DeVlieg-Pope worked for 15 years as advertising manager and graphic artist for the DeVlieg Machine Company. She and her husband, Jim Pope, champion natural resource conservation and education. They support and volunteer at the Taylor Wilderness Research Station, a university wilderness laboratory located in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness which provides educational opportunities for university engineering and natural resources students and faculty, as well as visiting scientists from other institutions. The foundation also supports the McCall Outdoor Science School and the Center for Ecohydraulics in Boise.

Earlier this fall, the university presented the President’s Medallion to J. Michael Mahoney, who has endowed 11 scholarships at the University of Idaho. Many of his gifts are named in honor of Idaho residents whose lives were cut short. His first gift to the university honored Stephanie Lynn Crane, a nine-year-old girl from Challis who went missing in 1993. Since 1995, Mahoney’s endowments at the university have awarded more than $1 million in scholarship funds to 176 U-Idaho students. “The reason I like to establish scholarships is because it really is a gift that keeps on giving,” Mahoney has explained. “These scholarships provide living memorials to people who died too young, while providing help for countless others.” The President’s Medallion is presented to individuals who have made significant contributions to the cultural, economic, scientific and/or social advancement of Idaho and its people, and have provided exceptional service to the state or nation that has influenced the well-being of humankind.

This month, 814 graduates were eligible to walk across the stage to receive their diplomas. The graduates will earn a total of 841 degrees: 529 undergraduate, 249 master’s, eight specialist, 12 law and 43 doctoral degrees. This brings the all-time total to 103,264 graduates and 110,880 degrees.

View the 2011 winter commencement ceremony online on-demand late Saturday: www.uidaho.edu/newsevents/uidaholive.

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About the University of Idaho
The University of Idaho helps students to succeed and become leaders. Its land-grant mission furthers innovative scholarly and creative research to grow Idaho's economy and serve a statewide community. From its main campus in Moscow, Idaho, to 70 research and academic locations statewide, U-Idaho emphasizes real-world application as part of its student experience. U-Idaho combines the strength of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. It is home to the Vandals. For information, visit www.uidaho.edu.