Two ceremonies honor ASC spring graduates

(05-18-2010)

The growth of its Graduate School prompted Adams State to hold two Commencement ceremonies for the first time, Saturday, May 15. Nevertheless, Plachy Hall gym was standing-room-only for the morning ceremony, at which 251undergraduate degrees were awarded. A separate afternoon ceremony honored 158 master's degree recipients. The day's speakers urged the graduates to use their talents and skills to support their communities.

The undergraduate commencement address was given by Gilbert Romero, who served in the Colorado House of Representatives from 1984-1998. In 1999, he started the government affairs and lobbying firm Capitol Success Group, of which he is a principal/attorney.

Dr. Susan Belanger, at ethics liaison at the Center for Clinical Bioethics at Georgetown University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C., gave the afternoon address.

A beacon of possibility

Adams State President David Svaldi introduced Romero as "a beacon of life's possibility for all of today's graduates. His parents taught him value of an education that was not available to them. Like many of you - he was his family's first generation to graduate college. You can do anything you set your mind to, just as Gil Romero has."

Commencement speaker Gilbert Romero

Gil Romero offers advice and gifts to the 2010 Adams State College spring graduation class.

Borrowing his speech title from a song by Kenny Chesney, Don't blink, a hundred years goes faster than you think. Under each graduate's chair, Romero had placed a gift containing two items: a copy of Curious George and a clock.

"This book represents the first formal learning you received, your first chance to sit in a classroom, have a teacher, learn to read," Romero said. "For my father and mother, this book represents all of the formal education they ever received."

From left: Ava Hoffman, Fletcher Horton, Elizabeth Carly Johnson, and Melissa Ann Sui-Len Kam open their gifts from commencement speaker, Romero.

He told how his father lost his mother at age 8; four years later, his dad, a sheepherder, was killed by lightning. With only a second grade education, the elder Romero began working in Colroado's coal mines at age 14.

"My mom quit school in sixth grade to help raise her four brother and sisters," Romero added.

"My father understood the power of education. He was bound and determined that my brothers and I would go to college. He would not settle for this book to be the only one we read. My father wanted us to become teachers or priests. My brothers became teachers very quickly - the kind of teachers that students always remember, the kind of teachers that make a difference in the lives of their students.

"Being a lawyer rather than a teacher, I always thought I was the big deal in our family - but I realize now why my father admired and respected teachers."

Romero asked the graduates to keep the book close to their diplomas as a reminder not to take their educations for granted. Adding, "And this book is a reminder that you did not get to this point on your own. You had help," Romero began a standing ovation for all the parents and teachers in the room.

Regarding the second item in the gift, he said, "Your clock is ticking - and you don't have a minute to waste. Live your lives with a sense of urgency and sense of purpose." He quoted Native American poet Howard Ranier, who wrote: "'If I can live through today, you will look back and grab the hands of thousands of more.' This is your charge as ASC graduates."

Becoming an ethical professional

Dr. Belanger talked to the master's degree recipients about four qualities she hoped they would cultivate as ethical professionals: leadership, expertise, teaching, and advocacy. Most of the graduates, 93, were from Adams State's counselor education program; 57, from the teacher education program; and the remainder from art or human performance and physical education.

Dr. Susan Belanger, who gave the address at the master's degree ceremony, with her sister Tammy Obie, who received her M.A. in counselor education at the event.

Dr. Susan Belanger, who gave the address at the master's degree ceremony, with her sister Tammy Obie, who received her M.A. in counselor education at the event.

"At the time of the 2000 U.S. Census, only 9.4% of Americans had attained a master's or professional degree," Belanger said. "You are now part of an elite minority. This degree will propel you into new roles - that of leader, expert, teacher, advocate and change agent, even if today you are not sure you are any of those."

"Leadership takes courage, the courage to do what is right, the courage to speak up when a situation warrants, and the courage to take a stand against indignity and oppression both in the workplace and the community. Leaders hold themselves accountable," Belanger said. "You do not have to be in a formal leadership role to exhibit the characteristics of a leader.

"With expertise comes the ability to assess the significance of a situation, a knack for discerning a right course of action, and a well-developed intuition. ... In many of our roles, we are asked to mentor others. Will you share with me all I need to know or will you hold back important information for my work? Today, I ask you to commit to sharing your knowledge with others.

"We count on advocates to fight for the rights of others, and to support and defend causes important to them and their communities. Leadership, expertise, and teaching will enhance your ability to advocate. ... You are in perfect position to become change agents. You enter or re-enter your work environments with objectivity. You may see the world differently than others see it. You may observe the inefficiency of a work process, or the unethical treatment of staff, or maybe the oppressive environment created by a business tyrant."

She advised the graduates to take the opportunity of this new beginning as an opportunity for self-reflection. "You should expect of yourselves no less than you would expect of others, an honest evaluation, the opportunity to learn from your failures, patience, accountability, and a chance to make improvements if you do not measure up. Today, I ask you to commit to asking yourself, is my community better off because I practice my art here?"

By Julie Waechter