Adams State awards 485 degrees


A night of welcome rainfall left the Adams State campus shimmering green in the sunlight, the morning of spring commencement, May 12.

In the morning ceremony, Adams State awarded 215 undergraduate degrees, including 196 bachelor's degrees and 19 associate degrees. Among the graduates were the first 18 to complete Adams State's four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing program.

The college's Veterans Club Honor Guard initiated the ceremony with a presentation of the colors. Matt Martinez, a Marine veteran and president of the Adams State student senate, then led the audience in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.

Commencement Videos

At the afternoon's graduate commencement ceremony, 270 master's degrees were awarded, including Adams State's first 11 Master of Arts in Higher Education Administration and Leadership (HEAL).

Welcoming the audience, Adams State President David Svaldi noted it was the last commencement ceremony for Adams State College. Adams State will become a university, effective August 7.

Adams State alumnus Steve Valdez, chair of the college's Board of Trustees, told the graduates: "Today is all about you - what you have accomplished and what you are about to accomplish, having been taught the answers to questions not yet asked, and the solutions to problems that have not yet surfaced. "Adams State becoming a university is also all about you," Valdez added. "We want you to have that edge in applying for jobs. As you leave here, go out and talk about what this banner really means - 'Great Stories Begin Here.' Spread the word about what ASU has done, and about the even better stories to come."

Dr. Melissa Freeman, left, stands proudly with the first eleven graduates of Adams State's Master of Arts in Higher Education Administration and Leadership program, which she directs. Adams State initiated the program with a two-year, $300,000 grant from The Fund for Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) in its Special Focus Competition for Graduate Programs at Institutions of Higher Education Serving Hispanic Americans.

Loraine Glidewell, who received her B.S. in organismal biology, addressed the gathering on behalf of the graduating class. "Springtime in Alamosa means blowing winds, but today those are the winds of change. Reflecting on the past few years, only one thing came to mind: construction. We have seen a parking lot full of pot holes become the incredible Rex Stadium. We have seen the ancient ES Building become the stylish McDaniel Hall," Glidewell said, referring to $62 million in construction and renovation at Adams State in the last 5 years.

"It is clear we are leaving a college that is very different from the one we entered. Likewise, those of us graduating today have undergone a similar transformation. We are new and improved, armed with a college degree, and ready to take on the world."

A few words about the art of listening

Commencement speaker Lee White welcomed the audience in both Spanish and English. The Executive Vice President and Manager for George K. Baum & Company at its Denver Public Finance Headquarters, he has 30 years in the investment banking business and is responsible for underwriting over $10 billion worth of municipal bonds. White oversees Baum's Colorado Governments & Infrastructure Group, Higher Education & Non-Profit Finance Group, and Renewable Energy Project Finance Group. White helped organize bond financing for Adams State's new student apartments, Rex Field, remodeled academic facilities, and new recreational facilities.

Recalling advice from his father at his own college graduation, White's talk was entitled, "Why Intentional Listening and 10,000 Hours of Work on Your Passion Will Make You an Outlier, Or, I Got a Darn Good Start in Alamosa, Colorado."

Drawing upon historical and literary examples, as well as his own business experience, he expanded on his father's observation that "The best conversationalist is the best listener."

White quoted the African parable: "Why do human beings have two ears but only one tongue? To listen twice as much as we speak." He then referenced author Henning Mankell, who said: "Many people make the mistake of confusing information with knowledge. They are not the same thing. Knowledge involves the interpretation of information. Knowledge involves listening."

White gifted each graduate with the book, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, a true story about an impoverished boy in Malawi who transformed the fortunes of his family and drought-stricken village through his own ingenuity. William Kamkwamba, armed only with an old science magazine and make-shift parts, created a wind turbine that brought power to his off-the-grid village and allowed the use of water pumps in the farm fields. He eventually earned a degree from Dartmouth.

White then urged the graduates to become "outliers," as described in Malcolm Gladwell's book The Outliers: The Story of Success. The book asserts the best, brightest, and most successful individuals become so through sheer hard work - spending about 10,000 hours perfecting their passion. Gladwell's examples include Bill Gates, Bill Joy, and the Beatles.

"Each of you can indeed be an outlier," White said. "Find out what drives you, whether it makes money or not. Just laser focus on a single task, and then work like heck to do it well. The result is almost uniform success.

"Your future is in your hands," he went on. "You will use your ears just as much as your tongue. Become an 'outlier,' a person that accomplishes much while others tread water. You are the men and women for whom work is real, rewarding, and revealing."

By Julie Waechter