Photo gallery: SUU graduates told to ‘dream big and follow your heart’

Graduates walk in procession across campus prior to the 120th annual Southern Utah University commencement, Cedar City, Utah, May 3, 2019 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

CEDAR CITY — Southern Utah University’s largest-ever class of graduates was honored Friday during the institution’s 120th annual commencement ceremony.

120th annual Southern Utah University commencement, Cedar City, Utah, May 3, 2019 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

The Class of 2019 has a record 2,067 graduates, SUU President Scott Wyatt told the crowd gathered at the America First Event Center. In addition to 491 master’s degrees and 1,210 bachelor’s degrees, a total of 349 associate degrees and 17 certificates are being awarded, he said, adding that the graduates hail from 31 foreign countries and 38 U.S. states.

The graduates range in age from 17 to 66, Wyatt said, adding that 54 married couples were graduating together.

Army veteran and noted Paralympic athlete Melissa Stockwell, who lost her left leg in a roadside bomb while deployed in Iraq, was the program’s keynote speaker.

“The great part about today, your graduation, is this isn’t the end. This is just the beginning,” Stockwell told the graduates. “And while I sincerely hope that you never actually encounter an actual roadside bomb, when you experience the metaphorical roadside bombs that come your way, plenty of small ones and some big ones, it is up to you how you choose to react to them. It’s a conscious decision and one that’s in our own power to control.”

“After losing my leg, I could have chosen to say, ‘Oh, woe is me. I lost a leg’ and I don’t think anybody would have blamed me for that. But instead I chose to say, all I lost was one leg. Now let’s figure out how to get back to living.”

Keynote speaker Melissa Stockwell addresses graduates during the 120th annual Southern Utah University commencement, Cedar City, Utah, May 3, 2019 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

“You cannot change your circumstances that happen to you, but you can control how you react to them,” Stockwell added, challenging the graduates to boldly seize the opportunity to make a difference in the world.

“You will remember this day for the rest of your lives. A day of celebration, reflecting back on past trials and successes and hope for the future.

“Learn from your failures. Give back to your community. Take the opportunities that are presented and that aren’t in front of you. Dream big and follow your heart. Always fly your flag high and proud. And most importantly, remember that in life we all have the power to choose our own story. So choose yours wisely and be proud of the path that you’re taking.

“Congratulations, Class of 2019 on your huge accomplishment. It is your time to shine.”

Immediately before Stockwell’s remarks, SUU officials presented her with an honorary doctorate degree in humane letters. Also receiving honorary doctorate in humane letters was local Paiute tribal leader and advocate Lora Tom, while longtime Cedar City civic leader Rich Wilson received an honorary doctorate of public service.

Also speaking during the commencement exercises were outgoing student body president D’Mia Lamar, who graduated in philosophy and political science, with a minor in legal studies. She plans to teach English in Spain this summer before returning to Utah to begin law school.

Engineering student Cameron Aston was recognized as the class valedictorian.

At the end of the program, SUU provost Bradley Cook had the graduates stand and told them they had been accepted as graduates, and alumni president Scott Johnson formally welcomed them to the alumni association. Diplomas were to be handed out at the various individual college graduations scheduled throughout the day.

For more images of the SUU Class of 2019’s commencement, check out the St. George News / Cedar City News photo gallery below.

Click on photo to enlarge it, then use your left-right arrow keys to cycle through the gallery.

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