1,433 students graduate during fall commencement to become Lakers for a Lifetime

GVL / Luke Holmes - GVSU commencement was held in Van Andel Arena on Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016.

Luke Holmes

GVL / Luke Holmes – GVSU commencement was held in Van Andel Arena on Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016.

Emily Doran

One thousand, four hundred thirty-three Grand Valley State University students walked across the commencement stage at the Van Andel Arena Saturday, Dec. 10. After semesters of hard work, they finally shook hands with GVSU President Thomas Haas, received their diplomas and moved the tassels on their mortarboards from the right to the left to start their next chapter as Lakers for a lifetime.

“I’m excited,” said Megan Rasdale, who graduated with a bachelor of science degree from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “I’m nervous about what’s going to happen next.”

The commencement ceremony featured a speech by Kate Pew Wolters, former chair and member of the GVSU Board of Trustees and president of the Kate and Richard Wolters Foundation. She spoke about the different types of choices people face and the importance of deliberately making good ones, even if that means taking risks.

“When you consider mentors, work experiences and jobs, I encourage you to make ambitious choices and embrace them, being committed,” Pew Wolters said. “And the only way to be truly committed to something is to be passionate about it. (Don’t) play it safe. Take some risks. As I look back, I often find that the choices I regret most are the ones I didn’t make.”

In particular, Pew Wolters emphasized the importance of valuing engagement in meaningful work over pursuing paths that may be profitable but unfulfilling.

“Make no mistake: good choices are not always the most lucrative ones,” she said. “Your best choices won’t necessarily increase your authority or boost your status. They’re never the easiest route, (but) they’re also the choices that teach you the most.”

After her speech, Pew Wolters was awarded the honorary degree of doctor of public service.

Christos Panopoulos, who serves on the Grand Valley University foundation board, was also awarded the honorary degree of doctor of business administration for his work and acumen in the business world. Panopoulos immigrated to the U.S. in 1955 at the age of 19 and served in the U.S. Army before delving into business and ultimately expanding a hair salon into a multi-business enterprise.

Cory Jackson, who graduated from GVSU in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in public and nonprofit administration, received the Young Alumni Award at the commencement ceremony. Jackson currently works as the nutrition and wellness director of the YMCA of Western North Carolina. He received the Young Alumni Award as recognition of his work to expand access to healthy food.

Haas, who gave the welcome address and remarks at the commencement ceremony, spoke about the importance of servant leadership as he addressed the sea of blue caps and gowns.

“This arena is packed with servant leaders,” Haas said. “As you embark on your careers and move up in your professions, I hope you take this helpful idea of service and it features prominently in your motivations and in your leadership of others. When you assist others to succeed, you do.”

Robert Stevenson, adjunct instructor in the Brooks College of Interdisciplinary Studies, also spoke about the true purpose of education in the ceremony’s opening reflection.

“The role of education is simply not about information,” he said. “Education is never learning to pass (a) test or writing a paper or earning a good grade. The role of education is about the spirit and the character and the mind of our students so that they become contributing, professional, world-changing members of society.”