2024 Commencement Ceremony Recap

Published: April 26, 2024 | Read Time: 5 minutes

Mindy Benson at PodiumPresident Benson opened the 125th SUU Commencement Ceremony by recognizing the 3,047 candidates for graduation. The Class of 2024 has earned 888 master’s degrees, 1,876 bachelor’s degrees, 290 associate degrees, and 107 certificates.

Garrett Shaw was recognized as the University Valedictorian. Shaw is originally from Pleasant Grove, Utah and chose SUU for its small class sizes and proximity to outdoor activities. He believes his university experience has prepared him well for the future, especially in managing his time effectively. Shaw plans to attend BYU Law School, starting this fall.

In President Benson’s remarks, she imparted the profound message of these words: Live, Learn, Leave a Legacy.

LIVE: “30 years ago, I sat in the very same place you’re sitting now, as a graduate of SUU. 30 years flies by in the blink of an eye. Don’t miss your life or wish it away waiting for the big moments. LIVE your life. Your time at SUU has shaped and helped develop who you are. The next 30 years will further define who you are; careers, marriage-or not, families, leadership, community building, dreaming, it all lies ahead of you. Today is the first day of the rest of your lives. Live, dream, learn, grow, and challenge yourself. Time goes faster than you can ever imagine… Remember, the ordinary days you had here on campus, will be the extraordinary moments you look back on in 30 years.”

LEARN: “Learning is the essence of growth. It is the willingness to embrace new ideas, to challenge our assumptions, and to expand our horizons. Learning is a lifelong journey. So as you venture out into the world, seek knowledge, ask questions, and strive to be the best version of yourself. Nelson Mandela said, ‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.’ As you embark on this next chapter of your lives, never underestimate the power of learning to shape the world around you.”

LEAVE A LEGACY: “Make it a goal to leave a legacy in the life you live. The impact you make doesn't always have to be on a global scale to be meaningful. Sometimes, our impact is felt most profoundly in the lives of just one person. Whether it's volunteering at a local shelter, tutoring a struggling student, or simply offering a listening ear to someone in need, our actions, no matter how small, have the potential to ignite a spark of change. As Mother Teresa said, ‘I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.’ Each of us possesses the ability to effect change, to touch lives, to inspire hope. Your legacy is not determined by the height of your achievements but by the depth of your impact.”

Two graduating students addressed the Class of 2024, Holly Biesinger and Nick Stein.

Graduating Student Holly at podiumHolly Biesinger is from West Valley City, Utah. She is graduating with degrees in Art education and History with minors in Art History, Illustration, Painting, Drawing, Printmaking and History Teaching. Holly is also the Valedictorian for the College of Performing and Visual Arts. Her address focused on self-discovery.

“As you step into the world beyond these walls, remember that success isn't just about climbing the career ladder or amassing material wealth,” said Biesinger. “It's about becoming the best version of yourself and contributing positively to the lives of those around you. The impact you make as a person is what truly matters. As we leave SUU, above all else, it’s the people we will remember and the experiences that drew us together that we will carry in our hearts.”

Graduating Student Nick Stein at podiumNick Stein is from Cedar City, Utah. Nick is graduating with a bachelor's degree in Communication with an emphasis in messaging and human interaction. He shared his college journey and the power of being a lifelong learner.

“It’s an exciting and deserved feeling to be at the finish line today, but we should use this feeling to our advantage,” said Stein. “SUU has lit the fire, but it’s our responsibility to keep it going. If you were sitting here thinking you’re done learning, think again! The purpose of education is not to teach us everything we’ll ever know. That would make this day so depressing! The real purpose of education is to inspire us to seek out opportunities for personal growth, and to instill in us a sense of curiosity about the world. I’d like to leave you with this: I hope that you will approach whatever awaits you after commencement with a curious mind, and let your experience at Southern Utah University be a springboard to further success.”

Honorary doctorate degrees in public service were conferred to Jesselie Anderson and Gayle Pollock. Anderson is one of our state’s most celebrated and recognized leaders. Her influence and elevating touch extends to a myriad of organizations including higher education, the arts/park/zoo initiatives in Utah, politics, and our very own Utah Shakespeare Festival. Gayle Pollock is a beloved alumnus of this institution and has markedly expanded the reach of Bryce Canyon National Park. He has helped to solidify SUU’s place as the University of the Parks through the Alliance for Education with our Eastern Campus, being Bryce Canyon, and has been a loyal volunteer on numerous University boards.

Alumni President Caytee Wankier, Class of 2008, also addressed the graduates: “If you remember anything today, I hope you remember the power of place. Because the place where you sit is kind of special. While you may never be asked to drive a team through a blizzard, remember that when you meet hardships, struggles, or insurmountable walls, press forward. On those days that you fail and everything seems to be going against you, (because don’t worry, it’s going to happen), remember YOU are more capable than you realize. YOU are part of something BIG. Like our early founders, we are a unified community that can face all odds. YOU are officially written in the history of resilient and hardy T-Birds.”

Music for the event was provided by the SUU Symphony Orchestra, who accompanied the national anthem, arranged by Dr. Keith Bradshaw and performed by three vocal performance majors: Anne Turner, Emily Benson and Madison Hansen. The SUU Symphony Orchestra also performed the processional music, Pomp and Circumstance by Edward Elgar and was conducted by Dr. Xun Sun for both arrangements. SUU Choirs performed “The Promise of Living”, directed by Dr. Andrew Briggs and accompanied by Diane Carter and Tracey Bradshaw.

Tags: College of Health Sciences College of Natural Sciences CurStu FacStaff Board of Trustees

Contact Information:

Nikki Koontz