Adams State graduates urged to create a better world


Papparazi-esque parents, live music by the ASU Chamber Winds, and a standing-room-only crowd of proud family and friends welcomed Adams State University's spring 2013 graduates to their morning Commencement Ceremony, May 11.

Two new holders of Bachelor's of Science in Nursing degrees recorded the event with videocams mounted to their mortarboards, while other caps bore sparkling messages of celebration.

The university awarded 209 bachelor's degrees and 24 associate's degrees. During an afternoon ceremony, 248 master's degrees were presented

First-generation college graduates raise their hands, representing about one-third of the Adams State University 2013 class.

Positive experiences - positive results

Steve Valdez, chair of the Adams State Board of Trustees, told the graduates that the university works to create positive experiences for positive results. "Usually we see the result, but not what goes into the result. Yesterday we listened to three faculty members talk about their recent sabbaticals and the resulting expertise they brought back to the classroom. There is enormous preparation that coaches go through before they step on to the court or the field," he said. "Experiences like these set the stage to succeed for the rest of your lives. Today, it is all about you. Celebrate. Now is the time to get a job, leverage what you've learned, and make a difference."

B.S. exercise science graduate Jasmine Mascarenas evoked laughter and applause with her address on behalf of the class of 2013. Each time she said the word, "graduate," her fellows started a "wave." Mascarenas is the first in her immediate family to earn a college degree, as were about a third of the graduating class. More than a dozen members of her family traveled from New Mexico to celebrate the achievement. Now set to pursue a doctorate in physical therapy, Mascarenas posed two questions to her fellow graduates that she'd been asked in grad school interviews.

Jasmine Mascareñas, who earned a B.S. in exercise science, addressed the Commencement crowd on behalf of the Class of 2013.

Watch Jasmine's speech on YouTube

"What does having an education mean? I am not talking related to academic achievements or your ability to outshine the person sitting next to you. I am asking what makes you so different from someone who doesn't have an education? What have you gained or become because of it? Are you more conscience of the world around you? Do you stop and think more before you act? Are you more appreciative of life? This question was challenging for me, and I hope it challenges you, as well, to think about what today means and the value of the past few years."

Her second question was: "Graduates, if I were to ask your best friend or a stranger to describe you, what would they say? . . . Who do we want to be and what types of impressions do we want to leave? We touch peoples' lives every day, and what we say or what we do can influence people in a bigger way than we think. . . . I hope you think about these questions and truly consider the answers and how they reflect on you and all you have accomplished."

Changing your mind can change your world

President David Svaldi introduced the Commencement Speaker by saying, "It is not always possible for us to give public recognition to someone who has served a pivotal role for us in growing our aspiration and achievement. For me, Dr. Gary Peer is that person."

Peer joined the Adams State administration in 1985, and served as vice president of Academic Affairs from 1987 to 1997. Adams State's academic accomplishments during Peer's tenure include three Program of Excellence awards from the Colorado Commission on Higher Education. Peer went on to hold upper administrative positions at Central Michigan University, Tarleton State University, Minnesota State University, and Texas A&M University, where he is now serving as interim Provost/Vice President of Academic Affairs.

Svaldi said, "For those of us that have known Gary over a period of 25-plus years, only a quotation from Mark Twain can properly introduce him: 'It is noble to teach oneself, but still nobler to teach others - and less trouble.' Dr. Peer, thanks for teaching us!"

Dr. Peer, former Adams State Vice President for Academic Affairs, told graduates they would never forget the San Luis Valley.

Watch Dr. Peer's speech on YouTube

Peer pointed out he did not expect anyone to recall the words of his speech, but that they would never forget Adams State University or the unique natural beauty of the San Luis Valley, whether that be the stunning view from atop Medano Pass, the sight of a rare Whooping Crane, or making snowballs atop Wolf Creek Pass on the Fourth of July.

"Reflect with me on the notion that the ideas you and I have in our heads can be terribly important in determining each of our lives," Peer said. "The father of American Psychology, William James, said 'The most exciting discovery of my lifetime is that human beings can literally alter our lives by altering our attitudes of mind. As we think, so shall we be.'"

That notion surfaced centuries earlier, Peer said, in the words of Epictetus, a Roman slave-turned philosopher: "We are not disturbed as human beings by things that happen to us, but rather by our view of those things." In modern times, that sentiment is conveyed in Roger Miller's song Dang Me: "You can't rollerskate in a buffalo herd. And you cannot take a shower in a parakeet cage. But, you can be happy if you've a mind to."

Peer urged the graduates to adopt that mindset, and to take the Athenian Oath of Citizenship: "I promise to leave this beautiful city even better and more beautiful than I found it."

"Today's graduates are not same persons who entered this university," Peer said. "The value of their college degree cannot and should not be measured by how much money they are likely to make. Rather, it can and must be measured by the extent to which college has compelled them, with the power of new ideas, wisdom, and judgment, to take better care of themselves, this world, and better care of one another."

By Julie Waechter