1,000 grads cross stage for commencement

GVL / Eric Coulter
Fall 2011 Commencement

Eric Coulter

GVL / Eric Coulter Fall 2011 Commencement

Samantha Butcher

Almost 1,000 Grand Valley State University graduates received their diplomas Saturday morning during the university’s Fall Commencement ceremony.

Both undergraduate and graduate students were represented at the event, which was held in the Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids.

In addition to student diplomas, the Alumni Association presented two awards. Felix Ngassa, professor of chemistry, received the Outstanding Educator Award and Michelle Troseth, executive vice president and chief professional practice officer for Clinical Practice Model Resource Center, was presented with the Distinguished Alumna Award.

GVSU President Thomas J. Haas addressed students at the beginning of the ceremony, encouraging the almost-graduates to “turn the world upside down.”

“Our mission is clear — it’s not just to affect one individual,” Haas said. “Yes, you will likely get a better-paying job and more interesting work because you have a degree, but it’s so much more than that.”

Dorothy Johnson, former member of GVSU’s Board of Trustees and president emeritus of the Council of Michigan Foundations, delivered the commencement address.

Johnson, who served on the board from 1995 to 2010, was awarded with an honorary doctorate of human letters. Her speech, “An Important FOUR Letter Word,” encouraged graduates to care about themselves, their families, friends, community and causes.

“Don’t give in to the cynicism in our culture that says, ‘Whatever,’” she said. “Care about yourself.”

Johnson said the caring attitude she advocated could help graduates stand out as job candidates in a challenging economy.

“If you care … your energy, enthusiasm, passion for life and commitment will transfer to your work,” Johnson said. “You will be recognized, I assure you.”

The message of optimism in the face of uncertainty was carried through by Haas, who encouraged the graduates to stay vigilant and hopeful despite the challenges ahead.

“… The world will benefit because of you,” Haas said.