June 15, 2013 – Nearly 5,000 graduates took the field to the cheers and applause of 40,000 family members and friends on Saturday at the University of Washington’s 138th Commencement Exercises at CenturyLink Field.
The ceremony began with the raising of the Husky “W” flag on the Seahawk’s “12th Man” flagpole by graduating seniors Ryan Schroeder and Shawna Wright. Ryan was a member of the UW rowing crew that won an unprecedented third straight national championship and Shawna was the catcher for our softball team, which competed in the Women’s College World Series final four and finished tied for third in the nation.
University President Michael Young presided over the ceremony and spoke to the graduates about public service, highlighting the achievements of several individuals, including Major Charles Bovey, who spent 20 years in the U.S. Army and was graduating with a master’s degree in international studies, and Robin Leong, who received a bachelor of science degree in public and global health and will be spending two years in the Peace Corps in Nepal. President Young called on others who will be joining the Peace Corps, VISTA, Teach for America, and other service organizations to stand, and asked those entering the fields of education, social work and nursing to also rise.
Bill Gates Sr., co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a University regent for nearly 15 years, and a towering figure in the history of the University, was presented with the highest alumni award the University bestows, the Alumnus Summa Laude Dignatus Award. Mr Gates is a graduate of the UW School of Law. The school’s William H. Gates Hall is named after him.
In his Commencement address, Jon M. Huntsman, Jr., former Governor of Utah and U.S. Ambassador to China, encouraged the graduates to find their “most deep rooted passion” and said, “You’ll never find your passion until you learn to follow your heart – the one thing that drives you, inspires you, and motivates you.”
Huntsman told the students to not “make the mistake of comparing your destiny to anyone else’s. Everyone has different battles to fight …. Embrace who you are and make yourself unique.”
He advised the graduates to embrace failure, find someone to love, take care of those around them, and give back, never forgetting “how lucky you are to live in America today.”
All of the graduates took that once-in-a-lifetime walk across the mammoth commencement stage, where the President, regents, deans, and faculty were gathered to confer degrees. When the last graduate crossed the stage and the siren sounded and purple and gold streamers rained from the upper stands, there was truly a sense that an important chapter in the lives of these students had ended and a new and exciting future lay ahead.