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commencementThere were tears, hugs, and cheers as proud family and friends celebrated student achievement at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh’s 143rd spring commencement.

Kolf Sports Center was packed Saturday, May 13, with well-wishers who gathered for the morning and afternoon spring commencement ceremonies. More than 1,500 graduated with a bachelor’s degree and nearly 200 with a Graduate Studies degree.

IN VIDEO: Take a quick look through some highlights from the 143rd spring commencement: 


Check out some of the stories of UW Oshkosh’s many spring graduates:

After a long journey, Darrick Gilbert, 31, of Ashwaubenon, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in applied studies through Lifelong Learning and Community Engagement (recently renamed Division of Online and Continuing Education).

Gilbert completed one semester at UW Oshkosh in 2005, but took some time off to work and earn an associate degree in marketing from NWTC. In 2014, he returned to UW Oshkosh. He is proud to complete the degree he sought years ago.

“From my time on campus in 2005 through today I have been proud to call myself a Titan,” Gilbert wrote in an email to his adviser, Debra Harris. “Although the route wasn’t what I expected, I am thrilled to have finished it where it began.”

Gilbert, who is a training manager at West Corp., said he is considering the graduate program at UW Oshkosh. About 10 people were in attendance to see Gilbert cross the stage Saturday morning.

Ali Schwartz, of Chippewa Falls, graduated with a degree an art with a design emphasis.

Her parents, sibling, aunt and boyfriend, all were in attendance.

“It’s relieving, just to be done,” she said while waiting to line up to proceed into the Kolf Sports Center. “It’s exciting.”

Schwartz is seeking a position with a branding agency within the Fox Valley. She said she will miss having friends all in one place and “now they’ll be all spread out.”

Schwartz was standing with her friend, Desiree Fuller, of Milwaukee, who was graduating Saturday along with her twin brother, Alonzo Jr. Desiree graduated with a degree in art design.

“I’m going to miss the atmosphere at UW Oshkosh,” she said, adding that she plans to go back to Milwaukee and look for work.

gradsFaculty member Gail Panske, professor in the art department, clapped and cheered as Schwartz, Desiree Fuller and other students proceeded by on their way to the front of Kolf Sports Center.

“You see some you’ve worked with,” Panske said, proud of the student achievement.

Alonzo Fuller Jr., who graduated with a journalism degree, will seek a job in TV broadcast as a sports reporter. He expects to look for a job in the larger markets of Chicago and New York.

Originally, his sister was going to go to UW-Milwaukee and he was going to Marquette University. Both Rufus King graduates, they decided the distractions of Milwaukee may interfere a bit with their education.

“We decided to get out and try something different,” he said. “I’m going to miss my friends who helped me getting adjusted in a new environment (here). It’s a lot different than Milwaukee. They made me feel welcome.”

Lynn Kleman, advancement officer with the College of Letters and Science at UW Oshkosh, was preparing to graduate with a master’s degree in public administration Saturday.

Kleman took six years to complete the degree–mostly on Saturdays, nights and weekends. She has an undergraduate degree from UW Oshkosh in kinesiology. It was a personal goal for Kleman to complete her master’s degree. Next spring, she is planning to attend UW Oshkosh commencement again when her son and daughter both are scheduled to graduate with bachelor’s degrees.

Boda Zhao received a doctor of nursing practice degree a year after his wife received hers. He will be working in family medicine at ThedaCare in Shawano.

“I feel honored and very excited,” he said, adding that his wife is working in urgent care with Prevea Health in Green Bay. “I will be starting a new journey.”

Both were international students from Shenzhen, China.

Regina Porter, of Appleton, earned a master’s degree in educational leadership and policy to prepare for an administrative role in K-12 schools.

Porter, who has a family and works full-time for the Freedom School District, said she liked the hybrid classes, which were every other weekend and online.

“With a family, that was very helpful,” she said about the seven-year process of earning her degree.

Sarah Smith, of Shawano, who graduated with a degree in kinesiology, was supported by a contingent of four that included her parents and close family friends.

Her dad, Richard Smith, was wearing a “UW Oshkosh Dad” T-shirt–his favorite one.

grads2Smith and his wife, Laurel, planned to celebrate with Sarah with a dinner in Appleton.

“I’m very proud,” Richard Smith said. “She’s very independent. I tried to bring her up that way.”

He said his only daughter plans to seek a job as a high school athletic trainer–possibly in the Shawano area. He said he has three nieces and nephews who too attended UW Oshkosh and another who is a freshman. The graduates have careers in nursing and police science.

“This is a good college,” he said.

Amanda Matthiesen, of Delafield, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in nursing.

“I’m so excited to be done,” she said, a stethoscope around her neck, as is customary for nursing graduates. “(But) I will miss seeing my friends every day and our instructors who always cared about us.”

Mattiensen’s friend Kyle Steffen Lay was inspired to go into healthcare after seeing his older brother deal with the challenges of Type 1 Diabetes.

“Every rough day paid off,” said Lay, of Oconomowoc, who just got a job as a medical-surgical nurse at St. Elizabeth Hospital in Appleton.

Lay graduated with a degree in biology from UW-Stevens Point before embarking on the nursing program at UW Oshkosh.

Mattiesen said she hopes to be a pediatric nurse at Children’s Hospital of Milwaukee.

Sierra Verbockel, of Wild Rose, who earned her master’s degree in public administration, was cheered by 12 people in the crowd.

“I love this place,” she said. “The knowledge, the collaboration, the atmosphere… I love learning and researching.”

Danielle Beck, of Oshkosh, grew up in a family where serving the community is second nature. Inspired by a grandfather who served in the Navy, a close friend who fought and died in Afghanistan and a cousin who currently serves as a police officer in Winnebago County, Beck graduated with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and a minor in anthropology.

“I am thankful for professors like Jordan Kasten who always pushed us to do our best,” she said. “My favorite experience was the day we worked an active crime scene helping to recover evidence.”

Beck achieved her goal of earning a degree before heading to Quantico, Virginia, to begin her eight-year service as a military police officer in the Marine Corps.

On her mortarboard were the words: “A girl with a dream became a woman with a vision.”

Austyn Boothe, of Pleasant Prairie, is the first person of her family to graduate college. She earned a bachelor’s degree in political science with a minor in philosophy. After graduation, Boothe plans to attend law school where she would like to focus on constitutional law.

“It was love at first sight with UW Oshkosh. My next dream is that my siblings will follow in my footsteps and become fellow Titans,” said Boothe, who served as the Oshkosh Student Association president.

mortarboardAni Thomas, of Appleton, and John Thomas, of Oshkosh, became instant friends after sharing not only a love of computer science but also the same last name. Both Thomases are graduating with a bachelor’s degree in computer science and look forward to a world of possibility.

“This University was the right fit for me and I leave to enter a field that I love,” Ani Thomas said. “I have the opportunity to create software, video games or mobile apps that touch the lives of people.”

Two accounting/finance majors who studied in the College of Business were proud to have jobs lined up before Saturday’s graduation ceremony.

Nicole Coughline, of Marshall, recently was hired at Pierce Mfg. of Appleton; and Molly Bockhop, of Belmont, has been working at Bemis in Neenah as an internal auditor.

Both said the program took five years due to the 150 credits required to graduate.

“I don’t really know anyone actually trying to get a job who doesn’t have one,” Bockhop said about her business administration classmates.

Debra Guenterberg, of Princeton, graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in human service leadership at the age of 61. After she could no longer work in a factory setting, Guenterberg went back to school to pursue a degree that will allow her passion to shine, she said.

grads3“I want to be an advocate for people with disabilities. In a world that we are too often told there are limitations on our abilities, I want to show people how they defy the odds,” Guenterberg said.

Ryan Merrill, of Fond du Lac, served as an Air Force F16 mechanic for eight years and traveled  the world before coming to UW Oshkosh to purse a bachelor’s degree in information systems.

“UW Oshkosh is the best colleges for veterans,” he said. “Between the professors, staff and the veterans resource office, I was always supported throughout my journey.”

Aza Muzorewa, of Madison, completed his UW Oshkosh journey with a bachelor’s degree in radio TV film.

“I knew I was home when I stepped onto this campus,” he said. “It has been a journey that has been filled with ups and downs but is an experience I will never forget. UW Oshkosh has provided me one-on-one interactions with faculty and a huge support system. Throughout my time here I have made a lot of friends, but I leave with an even larger family.”

Longtime provost leads last commencement



Retiring Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Lane Earns participated in his last commencement ceremonies at UW Oshkosh.

“Thank you and goodbye,” Earns said to concluded the 143rd commencement ceremony.

Earns will soon depart from UW Oshkosh after 30 years of service to the institution, UW System and the state. He has a distinguished record in administrative service as well as in teaching and research in the area of Japanese history.

“UW Oshkosh is a stronger institution for Lane’s contributions. He has provided calm and steady support through years of University growth and change,” UW Oshkosh Chancellor Andrew Leavitt said. “Lane has always put the best interests and the long-term prosperity of the UW Oshkosh community first, and it has personally been a pleasure and a privilege to serve with him.”

Administratively, Earns led the division of academic affairs as provost for 13 years and also served two years as associate vice chancellor in the same division.



Earns and Leavitt participated in awarding Daniel Burrus ’71, an honorary doctorate at the afternoon commencement ceremony. Burrus also delivered the commencement address.

“You can’t change the past…but what you can change is your future, based on the actions you take in the present,” Burrus said to the graduating class.

While at UW Oshkosh, Burrus, of Hartland, became one of the first undergraduate students in the nation to direct a federal research grant. Burrus was the recipient of the 2001 UW Oshkosh Alumni Association’s Distinguished Alumni Award. Burrus has been featured by national and international media, is the author of six books and has spoken to thousands of audiences around the world representing industries on the “leading edge” of innovation.

Goldens also have their day to celebrate

goldensDonning golden caps and gowns, members of the Class of 1967 helped lead in the soon-to-be graduates at the afternoon ceremony.

Among them was Kathy Johnson Teitelman, of Cincinnati, Ohio, who described herself as a “country bumpkin” when she first arrived on campus more than five decades ago.

“I was the first in my family to go to college. I was afraid,” she said. “But in thinking back, I know just how important it was to get my education in order to be a successful teacher.”


The UW Oshkosh spring graduates join more than 90,000 others at UW Oshkosh alumni.