Thousands of parents, friends, supporters, faculty and staff gathered inside Kolf Sports Center to make the day — a day that in many ways is the celebration of a completed journey — a special one for the more than 1,200 undergraduate and more than 160 master’s degree candidates. UW Oshkosh and UW System leaders and state dignitaries also gathered to celebrate and participate in the traditional ceremonies, offer words of wisdom to the new graduates and congratulate the institution’s newest alumni.
“I feel like a little kid. I’m nervous. I’m excited. This is a really big accomplishment,” said Angela Chellow, of Winneconne, who graduated with a degree in leadership and organizational studies from the Division of Lifelong Learning and Community Engagement.
Chellow said she appreciates the amount of commitment a college education takes.
“You are never too old to learn,” she added.
Bob Warnke, 70, of Oshkosh, couldn’t agree more. Warnke also earned a degree from the Division of Lifelong Learning and Community Engagement, ending an educational journey that was interrupted in the 1960s during the Vietnam War. The successful business man and Winnebago County Board supervisor credits his wife, adult children and an array of supporters for encouraging him to go back to college and earn his Bachelor’s of Applied Studies degree.
“I finished my associate’s degree aboard a destroyer,” Warnke said at his Oshkosh home, preparing to head to UW Oshkosh’s morning Commencement ceremonies. “I got drafted the last day of school. So, I got my draft notice and I decided to go into the Navy… I finished that out, and I guess life got in the way after the Navy.”
“It’s just unreal that this is really happening, after all these years of going to it,” Warnke said.
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Many graduates, like Hayli Dennis, of Menasha, who graduated with a degree in psychology, credit others with help along their educational journey. Dennis’ mortar board read: “Hi Mom!”
“It’s almost Mother’s Day, so I thought I’d give her a shout-out,” Dennis said.
Warnke also applauded the supporters who helped him achieve his goal of a college degree.
“Everybody contributed. My son. My daughter. Student-teachers. The Writing Center. The professors – a lot of them would let me come to their office if I had any problems and go over stuff with me,” he said.
Dennis, proud of herself for her accomplishments, described commencement day as “huge” for her extended family.
“I am one of like five out of 35 cousins in my family to graduate from college and I’m one of the youngest,” she said. “It’s a big thing in our family to finish college.”
Another graduate filled with pride was Rachael Larsh, originally of Wausaukee, who graduated with a degree in education. She said she has had a lot of fun during her time at UW Oshkosh. Her mortar board, which read “Oh, the places you will go,” pretty much sums it up.
“What I’ll take with me as I leave UW Oshkosh is it’s been a lot of fun, I’ve learned a lot and I’ve made a lot of great friends,” said Larsh, who is hopeful one of the places she will go is to the front of a high school classroom as a teacher.
Of course, commencement also brings many, many proud parents and supporters to campus. Randy Dyreson was among the thousands gathered — a proud dad celebrating the graduation of Trevor Dyreson, of Deerfield, who achieved a degree in kinesiology.
“It’s a big journey and it’s finally ending,” said Randy Dyreson. “Watching him excel in the health field is impressive.”
Trevor Dyreson said he isn’t exactly sure how to articulate what graduating from college means to him, but knows he feels pride.
“Pretty much everyone graduates from high school, but not everyone graduates from college,” he said. “It’s a little overwhelming and surreal. The real work is just going to begin now, this was just the first step today.”
For UW Oshkosh’s Graduate Studies, the spring commencement ceremony was a time to celebrate a 50 year journey. This year marks a half century of graduate-level education at UW Oshkosh.
“It’s exciting because we are ending one half century and getting to leap into the next,” said Susan Cramer, dean of Graduate Studies, who was a member of the platform party. “Graduate education is getting more exciting, more dynamic…our students are dynamic people and leaders who are poised to lead even more.”
UW System Regent Tim Higgins spoke to the overall quality of education at UW Oshkosh as he addressed the class of 2013 during the morning ceremony.
“Graduates, you’ve earned it and you should take real pride in it… Today, you are graduating from a world-class institution,” Higgins said, welcoming the new alumni to proudly call UW Oshkosh their alma mater.
- Morning ceremony class speaker to class of 2013: “Continue to beat the odds”
- Morning faculty commencement speaker: “Be agents of civility”
- Afternoon ceremony class speaker to class of 2013: “Stay humble. Stay hungry.”
- Afternoon faculty commencement speaker: “I believe in you”