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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Spring commencement sees jokes, reflections

Thousands of people gathered to celebrate the commencement of 4,206 UA undergraduate students in McKale Center on Saturday.

President Eugene Sander presided over the ceremony, which began with students marching in to “Pomp and Circumstance.” After everyone was seated, Sander welcomed everyone to the UA and gave a brief history of the institution.

“It was a bold move in 1885 to start a university in the desert before Arizona was a state,” he said.

Gabriella Carrillo, a performance major, led the graduates and attendees in singing the national anthem. Afterwards, Rick Myers, chair of the Arizona Board of Regents, spoke on behalf of the board. He asked them to think about all of the people who made graduation possible and to not forget about the Arizona university system.

“Now, you have worked very hard and have earned a degree from the University of Arizona,” Myers said. “Please continue to be advocates and strong supporters of education.” Toward the end of his speech, Myers told the graduates, “Be part of a better future by making a better future through your efforts.”

Former Associated Students of the University of Arizona President James Allen, a member of the graduating class, reminisced on his experiences at the UA and spoke of the challenging circumstances facing new college graduates in today’s society.

“We are the last generation of the old world and the first generation of the new one,” Allen said. “I say we will succeed because we already know what to expect.”

Melinda Burke, director of the UA Alumni Association, reassured graduates that they were not alone, with over 270,000 UA alumni to support them. She encouraged students to stay in touch with each other and the university by joining alumni organizations and volunteering.

Several students were presented with awards for their achievements in undergraduate studies.

Aubri Carman and Hanna Renee Henson received the Merrill P. Freeman medal though Henson was unable to attend the ceremony. Carman earned degrees in molecular and cellular biology, and biochemistry and molecular biophysics.
Henson earned a degree in family studies and human development.

Ella Starobinska and Jovan Ruvalcaba received the Robie Gold Medal award. Starobinska earned degrees in Russian and Slavic Studies and physiology. Ruvalcaba earned a political science degree.

Aeen Asghar and Alice Cai received the Robert Logan Nugent Award. Asghar earned degrees in biochemistry and molecular biophysics as well as Middle Eastern and North African Studies. Cai earned degrees in biochemistry and molecular biophysics, molecular and cellular biology and East Asian studies.

After the awards were presented, Asleif Willmer, who graduated with a degree in performance, gave the musical interlude. Willer performed “Glory Song” from “The Tender Land” by Aaron Copland.

Dr. Peter Rhee, one of two surgeons who operated on former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and the chief of the University of Arizona Medical Center trauma division, gave the commencement address. He was constantly joking with graduates and the audience throughout the speech, and congratulated Sander for his leadership during tough economic times, joking that it was fiscally responsible to ask him to speak rather than hire an outside presenter the university would have to compensate.

Rhee spoke about his experience immigrating to the United States. He highlighted points along his journey to becoming a trauma surgeon with the U.S. military and his transition to his current role at the UA.

“I didn’t know how to say ‘no’ to any opportunity,” Rhee said. He also spoke of his love for Tucson and the U.S., and said his time in the military really made him appreciate that.

Rhee said that as a military surgeon, he was able to treat people of all nationalities.

“How great is that?” Rhee asked. “I worked for a country that lets you take care of the enemy.”

A main theme of his talk was appreciating the good in the world. Throughout his talk, Rhee kept reminding the audience that, “Today is a good day.”

He ended by encouraging graduates to speak with him should they ever run into him, and closed with another joke.

“As a trauma surgeon,” Rhee said, “I hope that I will never, ever see you again.”

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