Adams State awards 140 degrees at fall Commencement


marlene espinoza

Perhaps because Adams State University's Commencement ceremonies are held in the Plachy Hall gym, audiences are more inclined to cheer. Even so, the event's significance is certainly something to shout about. One-hundred forty graduates were honored at the fall ceremony, Dec. 20, with 117 bachelor's degrees and 23 associate degrees awarded.

The address on behalf of the Class of 2014 was given by Marlene Espinoza, of Del Norte, Colo., who earned two Bachelor of Science degrees in business administration, finance and international business.

"I want to talk to my fellow graduates about life: it's only four letters, but it's such a massive, encompassing word. ... Life will throw you challenges. It's how you come out of these challenges that shows your true character, who you really are," she said. "Seek good in every situation, and you will realize how strong you really are. By doing so, you will be the inspiration."

She recalled the day that Dr. Michael Tomlin, School of Business chair, told her she was an exceptional student. "I politely said, 'thank you,' but my neurons weren't really computing that." Upon reflection, she told her classmates, she realized, "I'm only exceptional because of you. You are who you hang with. Because I was with you guys, I became an exceptional student."

Espinoza also acknowledged and thanked organizations and scholarship funds that supported her through her college education: the National Society of Leadership and Success, International Toast Masters, Adams State's Haynie Center and KASF radio, the Dr. Littleton Bunch Memorial Scholarship, the Florence Lorton/Alice Lorton Getz Memorial Scholarship, and the Alamosa State Bank - Clyde Helms Memorial Scholarship.

She gave particular thanks to her family, saying, "Standing here today, I honor my family. They supported me in all my endeavors. . . They protected me in one of my darkest moments. I am a survivor of domestic violence. I can tell you that it affects everybody."

Brandishing her new diploma, she addressed her father, "This is my freedom. This is my key." To her mother, she said, "You picked me up when I was beaten down; you held me until I could stand on my own. We did it. I stand up here today because of you and my dad."

duane bussey

The commencement address was given by Duane Bussey, who earned a degree in business administration and psychology from Adams State in 1982. Adams State President David Svaldi said of him, "Today's speaker not only began his Great Story at Adams State, but continued his success as a business and community leader in Alamosa."

Now president of San Luis Valley Federal Bank, Bussey was named Adams State's Outstanding Alumnus in 2001. He is a past president of the Adam State Alumni Association and the Grizzly Club, and current president of the ASU Foundation.

In his talk, "The Secrets to Success Are Not Secret," Bussey enumerated the six factors that created success for him:

  1. Staying married to the same amazing woman for 34 years and counting….
  2. Being blessed with three wonderful daughters
  3. Working for the same great company for 32 years
  4. Red wine
  5. Fly fishing…..and
  6. Graduating from Adams State University

graduate walking across stage to receive diploma

The first two factors are Bussey's "most important support group:" his family. He and wife, Lorey, whom he met at Adams State in 1976, have three daughters, two of whom join their parents as proud Adams State alumni

"The love, support and encouragement I've always had from my wife, our daughters, and my parents, have been so valuable to me. And they certainly keep me grounded," he said. "Your family may look different than mine. . . Whatever your support group looks like, value them, make them a priority, and treat them as you would one of your best clients in business.

Bussey's remaining four factors are what he calls "Rules for Living."

"The things that bring lasting success and effectiveness to any person or organization are not secrets at all, but rather things we have all heard from a young age, things our families, churches, mentors, and teachers from kindergarten on up have all shared with us," Bussey said. "They are principles of morality and behavior common to all the world's major religions, like integrity, humility, justice, modesty and fidelity, compassion, and the Golden Rule.

graduate receiving hug from faculty at commencement reception

"If you make adopt these character traits as the guiding principles of your life, when combined with what you have accomplished here at Adams State, you will have a great opportunity for success."

Bussey was very fortunate to begin working with SLV Federal Bank upon college graduation, he said, because its leaders – which included other Adams State alumni – held values consistent with his. "They always treated the staff and customers with respect and practiced what Whole Foods CEO John Mackey refers to as Conscious Capitalism: making a profit is important and necessary, but you must compete in an ethical way, respecting your competition and making sure that in all your dealings with your stakeholders you display honesty and integrity.

"With current predictions that millennials will have as many as 15 jobs in a lifetime, I realize the tenure I've had on my job may not be possible or even beneficial for most of you. But the rules for success will be the same for whatever job you have, no matter how long you hold it."

Fun is also essential to success and happiness in life, Bussey said. For him, that entails enjoying red wine, fly fishing, and following the Adams State Grizzlies. "Life has so much to offer, and anything you can do to enrich yourself will make you more insightful and keep you refreshed in your work and family life."

Bussey himself is proof of his last "secret to success:" graduating from Adams State University. "The assumption that some people make is that a small school degree can't stack up to a large university diploma. I'm here to tell you it definitely stacks up. I've listened to outstanding alumni award recipients at homecoming banquets for more than 30 years talk about how well Adams State prepared them for success and all the advantages of being here."

Ultimately, Bussey told the graduates, "It's up to you to define what success looks like to you. I believe it's not about money, possessions or power; the value is in making a difference that helps people."