Coming to the end of a journey can be a sad time, but for the nearly 2,500 graduates at California State University, Stanislaus' 52nd annual commencement on Thursday, joy and a sense of accomplishment were the emotions of the day.
"We made it to the end of the beginning. We are gathered here today with one thing in common and that is success," said Devonne Donahue, who received her Bachelor's of Business Administration and was the student speaker for Thursday's ceremony.
Being a single mom and working two jobs while being a full-time student, Donahue did not let her circumstances dictate the direction she wanted her life to go.
"Every time I thought about giving up I thought about my son. What kind of life he might have if I just dropped out of college and got a common nine to five? I thought about all the things I wouldn't know or the places I wouldn't go and inevitably all the things that he wouldn't have because of that choice. It would cost me more to give up than to push forward. For me, he was my motivation for success," she said.
Donahue's speech during the commencement ceremony implored students to continue to challenge themselves and not be afraid to become the new "standard" of the next generation.
Thursday's ceremony was also the final commencement at CSU Stanislaus for President Hamid Shirvani, who has accepted a position as chancellor of the North Dakota state university system.
"What a glorious day this is, to share this high point of success in the lives of so many," Shirvani said in his opening remarks during the first ceremony, "not only the students gathered here who are about to become graduates, but also their families, friends and others who have supported them on their journey to this moment."
In addition to the conferring of degrees, a number of awards were presented during the commencement ceremonies:
•The Presidential Medal of Distinction was presented by Shirvani to four recipients: Professor Lawrence Giventer, who joined CSU Stanislaus in 1975 and founded the university's nationally accredited Master of Public Administration program; James Tuedio, who joined the university in 1983, led the development of the University Honors Program and now sits as interim dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences; women's soccer coach Gabriel Bolton, who has led a team whose many successes on the pitch are rivaled only by their contributions to the surrounding community; and Amin Elmallah, who served as dean of the College of Business Administration from 2000 to 2007 and led the college to international recognition and accreditation.
•The award for Outstanding Professor for 2012 was presented to English Professor Stephanie Paterson.
•The Geiger-Metzger Award, presented to the graduating student with the highest undergraduate grade-point average in courses completed at CSU Stanislaus, was awarded to psychology major Verena Preikschas.
•The J. Burton Vasche Award, presented to the graduate who displays the highest standards of leadership, service and scholarship throughout his or her college years, was awarded to business administration major Danielle Fletcher.