In first commencement as KU chancellor, Girod sends off graduates with message of hope, limitless possibilities

photo by: Mike Yoder

University of Kansas students walk down the hill to participate in the 146th KU Commencement ceremony Sunday, May 13, 2018 on the KU campus in Lawrence.

For the members of the University of Kansas’ class of 2018, Sunday’s commencement ceremony marked the realization of the goals graduates had been working toward for years.

But, as Chancellor Douglas Girod said his remarks that day at Memorial Stadium, commencement isn’t just a special day for students. It’s a special day, too, for friends, family, and “for us,” he said, referring to KU faculty and staff.

“You see, KU contributes to society through education, through service and through scholarship,” Girod said. “But our greatest contribution to society is you, the graduates of KU, who we send out into the world so that you can make it a better place for us all.”

“And nothing makes us more proud than when our graduates use the skills and the passion they developed at KU to benefit their communities, their organizations and our society,” he continued. “Because that’s really what higher education is all about, and certainly that’s what being a Jayhawk is all about.”

Sunday’s 146th commencement ceremony marked Girod’s first as chancellor. Thousands of KU graduates and their loved ones watched from the stands of Memorial Stadium and the surrounding hillside as Girod spoke about his own journey to the chancellor’s office, reminding students of the many directions their careers may lead in the years ahead.

Today’s college graduates, he told the crowd, are likely to change careers — not jobs, he stressed, but careers — seven times over their working lives. Instead of viewing that uncertainty as a negative, Girod said, Sunday’s graduates should welcome and expect to develop new interests, new skills and new causes, shaped by the new people and experiences they will meet along the way.

Girod’s own path to the chancellorship wasn’t a conventional one, he reminded students. He’d originally planned to become an electrical engineer before switching to chemistry and, later, medical school. From there, he became interested in surgery, and then reconstructive surgery. Girod then enlisted in the United States Navy Reserve, serving as vice chairman and research director in otolaryngology at the Naval Medical Center in Oakland, Calif., before joining KU Medical Center faculty in 1994.

Eventually, after years of medical administration, Girod finally made the switch to university administration. He became vice chancellor of the medical center in 2013 and was appointed chancellor of the entire KU system nearly one year ago.

But his undergraduate background in liberal arts and sciences “opened doors for me,” Girod recalled Sunday.

“And over the next few years, you’re going to be doing the same thing. You’re going to learn to try new things every day, both in your professional and personal life, and that’s OK,” he said. “That’s part of the journey. So, embrace the journey. And don’t forget to enjoy the journey.”

Sunday’s commencement included the traditional procession through the Campanile and down the hill into Memorial Stadium, where deans of KU’s respective schools conferred degrees, en masse, to the roughly 5,000 students who graduated this spring.

The ceremony also included the ceremonial hooding of honorary Doctor of Science degree recipient Richard M. Weinshilboum, recognized for his groundbreaking work in pharmacogenomics, or the study of how drugs respond to DNA. Weinshilboum, who earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from KU, is the director of pharmacogenomics and chair of the division of clinical pharmacology at the Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine.

2018 KU student award winners

The following KU graduates were individually recognized during Sunday’s commencement ceremony at Memorial Stadium.

• Donald K. Alderson Memorial Award: Garrett Dylan Farlow

• Alexis F. Dillard Student Involvement Award: Tyler J. Allen and Tammy Khuong Nguyen

• Caryl K. Smith Student Leader Award: Maggie Lee Keenan

• Rusty Leffel Concerned Student Award: Mercedes Bounthapanya, Zoya Shahbaz Khan and Danielle Marie London

• Campanile Award: Jen Ning Yong

• Class of 1913 Award: Kaitlyn Elizabeth Johnson and Taylor Arthur Zabel

• Agnes Wright Strickland Award: Sana Gulraiz Cheema and Justin Cole Kim

• Kathryn Nemeth Tuttle Student Scholar Award: Katherine M. Bandle

KU Medical Center:

• Dorothy Knoll Outstanding Student Leader Award: Jeffrey John Javier

• Commitment to Diversity Award: Nancy Delgado

• KUMC Community Leader Award: Vusala Snyder

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