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Graduates Say Farewell to Their Campus Home for New Horizons
MAY 14, 2005--Discovering a new "home" on campus was a common
thread in the speeches by seniors Nick Sirek and Nicole Smith, who addressed
a crowd of graduates, parents, educators, and others at spring commencement
May 14 at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls Knowles Center.
A speech by the 2005 Distinguished Alumnus and River Falls native Stephen
Swensen, an internationally respected cancer researcher, professor and
chair of the radiology department at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, also
touched on themes of "home." Virtually all of Swensen's family
has been associated with UW-River Falls; his father is a retired dean
and his mother, siblings, wife and uncle graduated from UW-RF. His brother,
David, and late uncle, Glen Hartman, also received distinguished alumni
awards in 1996 and 1983, respectively.
Graduates of the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences,
College of Business and Economics, and Graduate Studies attended the morning
ceremony and graduates of the College of Arts and Sciences and the College
of Education and Professional Studies attended the afternoon affair.
For the past 10 years UW-RF graduating seniors have been invited by
audition to give the commencement address.
Sirek, who was one of six recipients of the 2005 Chancellor's Award for
Excellence, the highest award bestowed upon students, shared his wishes
for his colleagues including friendships, a place to always call home,
self-confidence, the courage and willingness to change and the opportunity
to make a difference.
"When we came to River Falls we moved away from the home we'd know
for so long, and started calling River Falls home," said Sirek. "My
wish is that you remember you once called this place home, but that you
are also able to find a place that makes you give your life to it and
you truly live there."
Relationships create the cement of building a home, Sirek said. "My
wish for you is that the friends you've made here be your friends for
Entering the "real" world after the River Falls experience will
have a great impact on everyone the graduates meets, said Sirek. "My
wish is that you take the knowledge and experience and lessons you've
learned here and use them to make a difference in your communities and
Sirek has been active in residential hall councils, UW-RF Student Senate,
the Student Center Core Committee and Area Council, which represents nearly
1,100 students on campus. He also worked as a resident assistant, the
house manager for theater productions and volunteered as a campus tour
guide. Sirek developed a program in Johnson Hall through Big Brothers,
Big Sisters, which has grown to be a successful volunteer program on campus.
Smith, of Apple Valley, Minn., who graduates with a B.S. degree in marketing
communications, and Sirek, of Birchwood, who graduates with a B.S. in
elementary education with minors in language arts and reading, illuminated
the common experience of creating a new "home" to which they
Smith discussed the importance of place in the college experience in her
speech titled "Falcon's Eye View." She related the student experience
with the campus community, calling residence halls places to "build
relationships and learn from others" and South Hall as the roots
that have inspired and created UW-RF. "Hold on to your roots,"
she said. "It is the certainty of yesterday that will carry you through
the wonder of tomorrow."
"A walk to Knowles at dusk reveals a breathtaking site," said
Smith, of traversing the bridge over the South Fork of the Kinnickinnic
River and the wooded pathway to the recreation complex. "This sunset
will forever encompass the essence of River Falls to me. All my experiences
and unlocked doors can be found amidst that sunset."
Smith "Staring down the homestretch to River Falls on a humid August
morning took my breath away four years ago, just as it still does today,"
said Smith. "Whatever tomorrow may bring, expect to see the sunset
painting your sky with perfection."
Smith has been an active leader on campus as a resident assistant and
residential hall manager. She has served on residential hall councils,
the Leadership in Training Committee and the Leadership Center Search
and Screen Committee. Smith also is the founder and co-chair of Extreme
Life Christian Organization. The campus chapter of the National Residence
Hall Honorary committee recognized Smith as "Student of the Year"
in 2002, "Resident Assistant of the Year" in 2003 and "Advisor
of the Month" in 2004. With a minor in journalism, Smith worked at
the UW-RF Student Voice as an editor, business manager and reporter. She
was a guest services coordinator for the 2004 Kansas City Chiefs summer
After the traditional, emotive "Pomp and Circumstance" by the
River Falls Brass, a quintet composed of music faculty, Faculty Marshal
Nicholas Karolides, the most senior faculty member, called the ceremonies
Retiring Interim Chancellor Virgil Nylander welcomed almost 600 bachelor's
and 60 master's candidates at both ceremonies. Presentation for degrees
was made by Ginny Coombs, Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs;
Stephen Ridley, dean of the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental
Sciences; Barbara Nemecek, dean of the College of Business and Economics;
Douglas L. Johnson, director of Graduate Studies; Gorden Hedahl, dean
of the College of Arts and Sciences; and Connie Foster, dean of the College
of Education and Professional Studies.
Among those recognized at the ceremony included the 2005 Distinguished
Teacher, economics Professor John Walker. Congratulatory messages were
delivered by Professor Barbara Werner, chair of the Faculty Senate, and
Matt Schuelke, Student Senate president. Finally the graduates were welcomed
into the UW-RF alumni family by Jeffrey M. McCardle, chair of the UW-River
Falls Foundation Board of Directors.
Graduating seniors Marissa Olson of Fridley, Minn., majoring in modern
language, and Cordell Wesselink, from Beldenville, majoring in theatre
arts, sang the National Anthem and the UW-RF Pledge Song at the ceremonies.
Tuesday, 22-Jun-2010 16:21:24 Central Daylight Time