Archive for Sunday, May 17, 2009

Hemenway delivers final commencement address to KU graduates

Irina Yakhnis, Amanda McIntosh and Melissa Galaviz took to the Chi Omega fountain before KU's graduation for a picture to share with friends. Kansas University's 137th commencement on Sunday found friends and family members celebrating graduation at Memorial Stadium in perfect weather conditions.

Irina Yakhnis, Amanda McIntosh and Melissa Galaviz took to the Chi Omega fountain before KU's graduation for a picture to share with friends. Kansas University's 137th commencement on Sunday found friends and family members celebrating graduation at Memorial Stadium in perfect weather conditions.

May 17, 2009


Students discuss memories, prepare for the job market

KU sent another wave of graduates through the Campanile, down Mount Oread and into the world with college degrees.

Members of Kansas University’s Class of 2009 walked toward Memorial Stadium in near perfect weather as they prepared to leave the confines of college for a stagnant job market and struggling economy.

All that didn’t dampen the celebration on Sunday, however.

As graduates lined Memorial Drive preparing to walk through the Campanile down to Memorial Stadium, some stood out in the sea of black robes.

Tasia Rayton, an economics major originally from Lawrence who went to high school in Austin, Texas, had devised a way for her friends and family to see her as she walked down the hill.

She had attached a number of balloons to her mortarboard cap, including one at the very top with a sign taped to it that clearly read “Tasia.”

“I don’t think anybody else has this name who’s graduating,” she said. “There might be one that says ‘Tasha.’”

The university’s 137th commencement ceremony was the last for Chancellor Robert Hemenway in his position — he will step down this summer.

He received a standing ovation from the students, and then told them that his tenure at KU was marked by a time of change.

He encouraged the more than 4,000 graduates to embrace change and be willing to take risks.

“Never let the promise of hope lose its power and brightness,” he said. “Take the risk. Seek to change your world and the world around you.”

He said he had seen technology change around him during his tenure, and he told the students that he was on Twitter (under the username BobIsTheBomb41, for those interested in following him), and joked that he had been using the social networking site to check up on them.

Facing a struggling economy, many of the graduates said they intended to pursue other paths than entering the workforce right away.

Four graduates from the Sigma Kappa sorority had assembled before the march into the stadium, and they said the experience was bittersweet for them.

“We’re moving away from everybody,” said Megan Kopff, who was graduating with a business degree in finance. “It’s depressing.”

None of the four had a full-time job lined up. Two were headed to grad school — one of them after taking a year off — and the other two were headed into internships.

“I just don’t believe it,” said Hannah Hartman-Frost, a journalism graduate from Prairie Village. “It just doesn’t seem real.”

Donna Shank, chairwoman of the Kansas Board of Regents, addressed the crowd, and told the graduates that though they faced “significant challenges” ahead, getting a college degree was one of the smartest decisions they could make.

“You have already taken the biggest and most important step,” she said.

She also took time to thank Hemenway, and listed some of his accomplishments at KU — athletic achievements and pursuing National Cancer Institute designation seemed to draw the loudest applause from the students.

Sunday’s weather featured temperatures that hovered around 70 degrees and a clear, sunny sky.

It all resulted in an atmosphere perhaps best summed up by Joshua Shireman, who was graduating with a master’s degree in education.

“It’s a beautiful day. I’m just relaxing,” he said. “It’s just great to spend time with family and friends.”


hawklet21 8 years, 11 months ago

Actually, Chancellor Hemenway received two standing ovations. It was so fun and such an honor to be a part of that ceremony.

Leslie Swearingen 8 years, 11 months ago

Tasia Rayton is my granddaughter and I am very proud to be able to say so. She is one that does have a job, has always had one. Kind of like President Obama, calm, steady, focused, keeps her eyes on the prize. That's the benefit of her having a mixed heritage, she has the strengths of both to rely on. My lord! My grandbaby is a college graduate! Thank you Jesus!

danemary 8 years, 11 months ago

+++++++++NOTRE DAME+++SHAME+++++SHAME+++

Jack Martin 8 years, 11 months ago

This was mentioned in a photo caption but not in the story so I wanted to note it here...

During his discussion of how the world has changed over the last 14 years, including in the area of technology, Chancellor Hemenway asked graduates to take photos of themselves and their friends with their cell phone cameras and to e-mail those photos to

More than 300 Jayhawks sent photos and those pictures have been posted at

Thanks to everyone who sent photos and congratulations graduates!

Jack Martin University Communications

Leslie Swearingen 8 years, 11 months ago

danemary hysteria is not the answer and it is not appropriate for this thread

Matthew Fowler 8 years, 11 months ago

It's 2009 already??!! I graduated in '99, where did all those years go?

I remeber Chancellor Hemmenway's commencement address of ten years ago very well. It was very inspiring and down-to-earth. The highly anticipated "Star Wars" prequel had just opened that weekend, and it seemed like everyone in the stands had one of those toy green light sabers and was waving it around. He mentioned how he was going to try to get tickets to see the movie after his speech!

He also said something really cool. "You may not find your life's work right away, but don't worry about it. You will. And when you do, you'll wish you could do this all over again." I have never forgotten that, all these years later.

Well done, Chancellor! Thanks for your years of service.

Alia Ahmed 8 years, 11 months ago


The walk down the hill IS the ceremony and as one who's had the privilege to walk down the the hill for my bachelor's and master's degrees and have watched many family members and friends walk down the hill, I hope the tradition never changes.

Bunny_Hotcakes 8 years, 11 months ago

@faceit You must be new here. Alia hit the nail on the head. There would be rioting in the streets if they tried to hustle everyone down the hill in a half hour.

cthulhu_4_president 8 years, 11 months ago

faceit needs to, well, face it. The graduation ceremony is the walking through the Campinille and down the hill. The speeches and stadium ceremony is nice, but just so much fluff. Many schools also have their own smaller, more intimate, ceremonies where graduates are individually recognized. Also, since KU doesn't give honorary degrees, hence no high-profile guest speaker, many students and families don't stay for the stadium ceremony, which makes sense. I stayed around for mine and don't regret it, but I can understand how someone would want to leave after the important part is done. Posters above have it right: can't suffle all through the Campinille in 30 min.

kujayhawkmom 8 years, 11 months ago

Obviously, faceit has never been to a KU graduation. As was pointed out by another poster, the graduation ceremony "is" walking through the Campinille and down THE HILL. Both of my sons graduated from KU and the pagentry of the ceremony are the graduates marching down the hill. Where else have you ever seen such happiness and creativity in a college graduation? KU has a unique tradition to honor their graduates. I know people that have "walked down the hill" and then cut out of the rest of the ceremony. I didn't go yesterday, but what is there to manage? Students get in line and march down the hill. Just how long do you think it takes for 4,000 people to walk down that hill, stopping and posing for family pictures. When my son graduated in '06, there were 7,000 students marching down the hill! Next time, if you want an "organized" boring ceremony, go to K-States's graduation!

drstrangelove 8 years, 11 months ago

We were really lucky to have Hemenway-- he basically said so himself when he pointed out that a lot of places were willing to pay him more. I hope he didn't suffer too much while he was here.

cthulhu_4_president 8 years, 11 months ago

"Obviously you weren't there."

I was there a couple of years ago.......graduating. From what I hear, it hasn't changed that much.

"There was a 2-4 minute gap between groups of grads, simply dead space & time. A complete waste."

You poor thing. 180 seconds, wasted!! What were they thinking?!

"They'll still get their walk down the hill, they can still skip across the football field, they just wouldn't have to wait in line for two hrs on Memorial Drive and bake for one-two hrs in the sun waiting on their peers."

Yes, actually they will have to wait. Cramming over 2000 people through the campinille and down the hill in 30 min=impossible no matter how you slice it. And actually, it is quite shady on Memorial Drive at that time of day, and I was amazingly comfortable while waiting for my peers. Next time you post, try to keep it to something you actually know what you're talking about.

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