‘I believe in each of you’: KU celebrates thousands of graduates during 147th commencement

photo by: Mike Yoder

University of Kansas graduates participate in the 147th KU Commencement, Sunday, May 19, 2019, at Memorial Stadium.

The nearly 4,000 graduates of the University of Kansas 2019 class have the ability to continue the “winds of change” and make a better world when they leave the university, Billy Mills said during the 147th KU commencement on Sunday.

Mills, a Haskell Indian Nations University and KU alumnus, spoke to the graduates after he received an honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters for his contributions to improving the lives of Native Americans. He told the graduates about the many different changes in society he has seen since he arrived in Lawrence in the 1950s, including the civil rights movement.

Mills, who is also an Olympic gold medalist, asked the graduates to continue moving society forward toward a diverse and accepting world.

“When I look into the eyes of young families we serve, I see hope. In the eyes of the youth, I see dreams, and in the eyes of our elders, I see visions,” he told the graduates. “In your eyes, I see our future. I believe in each of you. You will keep me believing in dreams and miracles.”

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Photos: 2019 University of Kansas commencement

Carla Salo, who earned a bachelor’s degree in English, said she was happy to hear Mills’ words to the graduates.

“It was pretty emotional,” she said. “That was really special.”

Elizabeth Broun, a director emerita of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and Teruhisa Ueda, the president and CEO of Shimadzu Corporation, also received honorary degrees during the ceremony. Broun received a degree of Doctor of Arts in honor of her contributions to the field of American visual history and Ueda a degree of Doctor of Science for his contributions to science and technology.

For the graduates, the ceremony allowed them to partake in many traditions, including walking through the Campanile for the first time and walking down the hill into the David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium, where the ceremony was held.

“I’ve always wanted to walk down the hill,” said Michael McGrath, who received a bachelor’s degree in political science. “That was my favorite part.”

Ethan Glendening, who received a bachelor’s degree in biology, said he enjoyed reciting the university’s alma mater and the Rock Chalk chant at the end of the ceremony. He said he’s been singing the song and chant at every home basketball game and performing it at commencement was a fitting end to his time at KU.

Salo said she found the whole ceremony to be wonderful and sentimental. Now she’s ready to move on.

“I got my degree in four years and I’m out of here,” she said. “I’m ready to get to work.”

While McGrath said he feels like the monkey is off his back, he still can’t believe his time at KU is over. Next he’ll have to find a job, a place to live and many other “adult” things he hasn’t totally figured out yet.

“It’s surreal,” he said.

But KU Chancellor Douglas Girod told the class that he knows the university has taught them the skills they need to be successful.

“The reality is, our world needs you,” Girod told the graduates. “As graduates of KU, you have special skills and talents to offer society. Use those skills and talents. We’re counting on you.”

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