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Home arrow Opinion arrow Commencement a day to reflect on accomplishments, look to the future

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Commencement a day to reflect on accomplishments, look to the future

Tomorrow, I have the extreme pleasure of conferring 783 degrees and certificates at Eastern Oregon University’s 84th commencement exercises. 

This is, for the third consecutive year, the largest graduating class in our history. Commencement is my favorite activity at EOU, and it will be my last act as president. I thank all of you who make Eastern so special.

EOU is fortunate to be located in the Grande Ronde Valley, surrounded by beautiful mountains and terrain. More importantly, our university is encircled by a community that prides itself in supporting and advancing EOU as a critical cultural, economic and civic engine for the greater area of the state. This is witnessed by the numerous business and civic leaders engaging our students through internships, attending performances — from sold-out productions of “Les Miserables” to the symphony or any number of athletic contests — supporting Eastern Promise as we involve high school, middle and elementary students in collegiate activities and the many individuals supporting EOU students directly with fundraisers, scholarships, employment and a host of other means.  

As EOU faces its challenges — fiscal, enrollment and political — I know you will support its cause. As we seize new opportunities through establishing our own institutional board, furthering Eastern Promise, recruiting and retaining students and other activities, I know your actions will be immediate and profound. And as a new president begins his tenure at Eastern, I trust you will be there to assist and help him be successful, just as you did for me. 

Commencement is a time to celebrate the achievements of students as they enter a new phase in their lives. However, it is more than just a day marking their accomplishments. It is a time when the university and community join together in rejoicing and celebrating what has been accomplished, and, more importantly, what will be achieved in the future. It is also a time for all of the individuals who assisted students in their studies to be acknowledged for their support and dedication. 

Each of you, in one way or another, has contributed to the success of Eastern. And as such, you contributed to the success and future achievements of the nearly 800 individuals who will earn their degrees tomorrow under the bright blue skies of La Grande. You should be proud.

As our graduates go forward and serve their communities, we know they will add even more value anywhere they live. We know they will give back and repay others for the generosity and support they were shown. While many of our students traveled to La Grande to attend Eastern — and many more earned their degrees online or at one of our sites — we do know that a majority will remain in the region and in Oregon.

They become leaders. They educate future generations. They improve business and civic life. They spur on new ideas and ventures of all kinds. 

In short, they make a difference. 

Many think of “commencement” as the end of the process of studying, learning, writing papers and taking tests. 

No. 

Commencement is the beginning of a new chapter in the lives of individuals who performed exemplarily at EOU. A beginning made possible because of the dedication of all of you who make this valley more than a beautiful place to live — you make it a beautiful community. 

On behalf of my wife, Cindy, and our daughter, Katie, we thank you for all of the support you have shown us. As we move forward in our own new chapter, the people we have met in Eastern Oregon will always be with us.  

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