The final lesson

GVL / Hannah Mico
President Haas applauding the graduates and giving his remarks.

GVL / Hannah Mico President Haas applauding the graduates and giving his remarks.

Sarah Hillenbrand

On Saturday, Grand Valley State University graduating seniors finally experienced the moment they’d been working toward over the past four or more years. Around 1,000 graduates attended the commencement ceremony, with many friends and family members filling the rest of VanAndel Arena.

“It might be cold outside, but there’s a lot of warmth in this room,” said President Thomas Haas in beginning the ceremony.

Haas congratulated the graduates for their hard work and dedication to learning and completing their degrees.

“I want to acknowledge the graduates; you are all Lakers for a Lifetime,” Haas said. “You’ve absorbed so many facts (at GVSU) and will absorb so much more in your future and (will) excel.”

Haas said these students now entering the working world will be counted on to use multiple disciplines to find unique solutions to complex problems. “You are leaders of character, ready to serve,” he said. “We watch eagerly as you take your next steps.”

The commencement speaker was Hank Meijer, co-chair and co-chief executive officer for Meijer Inc.

“I’m privileged and humbled to celebrate this with you,” Meijer said. “…Even as you’ve worked so hard to arrive at this important day, for many of you, this is a big step outside of your personal comfort zone.”

Meijer emphasized the importance of learning by listening. He encouraged the graduates to more often ask the question “What do you think?” to another person and really listen to their answer.

“We will make better choices if we listen to what others say and what has and hasn’t worked for them,” he said. “It also helps them to have a voice and be listened to. If someone asks ‘What do you think?’ you instantly feel valued and included.”

Meijer ended his speech with one last word for the graduates and his hope for the Grand Rapids community.

“In the days and months ahead, as you accept opportunities and leadership in work, the community and your professional life, I know you will always cherish the values you have learned here at Grand Valley,” Meijer said. “We need the best you have to offer. Among you are future leaders, and I hope you plan to help Grand Rapids. I hope you live a life of integrity, treating others with respect, and share those things with family and friends who gave so much to ensure that (you) make it.”

Also the ceremony, artist Cyril Lixenberg received an honorary degree, Linda Scott received the Distinguished Alumni Award, and Kevin Lehnert received the Outstanding Educator Award.

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