Dixie State University graduates urged to ‘blaze your own trails’

ST. GEORGE — With many giving a traditional slap to Brooks the bison’s backside, one of the largest graduating classes ever bid adieu to Dixie State University Friday at the institution’s 108th commencement ceremony.

Students celebrate at the 108th Dixie State University Commencement ceremony, May 3, 2019, St. George, Utah | Photo by Andrew Pinckney, St. George News.

Family, friends and a community of supporters cheered the final walk of a dedicated journey for the 1,828 students who applied for graduation as their long procession weaved its way into Trailblazer stadium.

DSU president Richard “Biff” Williams said what stood out to him about the Class of 2019 that includes the university’s first master’s degree students, is they are dedicated, committed and unique.

“This graduating class represents 33 different states and 15 different countries,” he said, adding that 17 of the students are from the university’s new Master of Accountancy program and 46 percent are first-generation students, becoming the first people in their families to earn a college degree.

The crowd cheered loudly as Williams announced that 63 percent of this graduating class were female. He said the lessons of determination the students have had on their journey will help them be successful in life.

“We need trailblazing optimists. We believe you will be the trailblazers that make the world a better place. Be optimistic in all you do and blaze your own trails.”

Williams said he was thankful to the faculty and staff and the dedication they display by committing their lives to education. He said the important work they do to help students succeed is what will make the world a better place.

J. Ralph Atkin and Intermountain Healthcare’s Terri Kane were also presented with honorary doctorates for being strong supporters of the university and our community.

Students celebrate at the 108th Dixie State University Commencement ceremony, May 3, 2019, St. George, Utah | Photo by Andrew Pinckney, St. George News.

“They are perfect examples of individuals that were determined to make the world a better place and they are doing just that,” Williams said.

Featured commencement speaker Steve Starks, president of Larry H. Miller Sports & Entertainment and the Utah Jazz, told the class of graduates ranging in age from 16 to 67 that sometimes detours are opportunities.

Within months of his graduation with a bachelor’s degree from Weber State University 16 years ago, he found himself disillusioned about the course of his life. Living with his parents, Starks was unsure of the career path he wanted to pursue but he knew he wanted to do something meaningful.

“It is a humbling experience to be an unemployed university graduate and have to respond to well meaning people who would ask, ‘You’re back home, huh.’”

He said that although he felt discouraged, he decided to use his time wisely working for a humanitarian organization and volunteering on a political campaign until a more certain path became clear.

“These experiences enriched my life and helped me form meaningful relationships that continue today. Eventually those relationships opened doors I could have never foreseen,” Starks said, adding that working with community leaders exposed him to great mentors with sharp minds and one of those relationships led him to work with the late Larry H.Miller.

Students celebrate at the 108th Dixie State University Commencement ceremony, May 3, 2019, St. George, Utah | Photo by Andrew Pinckney, St. George News.

“Pursue meaning and productivity rather than money and prestige,” he said. When Starks was first hired by Miller he was given a life lesson that had never left his mind and he wanted to pass it on to the graduates.

Miller looked at him and said, “You will find if you make enough money to pay your bills, live comfortably but modestly, fix the fridge when it breaks and take your family on vacation once a year, you will have achieved all the joy that money can bring you.”

In the years since the invaluable lesson, Starks has learned for himself the advice to be timeless and true.

“Money can create opportunity and security, but alone, it doesn’t bring fulfillment or joy. I encourage you to be ambitious, to work hard, build great lives and great careers and be productive in the communities where you choose to live. For some of you money and wealth will be yours and if it is, use it wisely to lift those around you,” Starks said.

He said life will be rich not based on the size of your portfolio but on the investments made in things that are important like relationships, experiences and being good and kind to one another.

Students celebrate at the 108th Dixie State University Commencement ceremony, May 3, 2019, St. George, Utah | Photo by Andrew Pinckney, St. George News.

“Remain lifelong students, eagerly and continually learning,” Stark said. “May you continue to blaze new trails and may life be good to you now and in the future.”

Valedictorian Braxton Thornley of Taylorsville, Utah, set his goal to become an English teacher because the things that matter most in life are the people. He credits his friends, family and wife Kailey, who he met at DSU, for molding him into the man standing at the podium.

“I urge you to continue to strive valiantly. I urge to you to continue to spend yourself in a worthy cause,” Thornley said.

“Because here’s the tricky thing about trailblazing – once you’ve summited one mountain there is always another on the next horizon. Do not leave Dixie and mistakenly believe that here are no more trails to be forged. Go out and summit your next horizon. Go out and do not forget above all, you are a trailblazer and you always will be.”

Email: apinckney@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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