Donning green gowns, colored cords and sashes, the graduating senior class entered Breslin Center Saturday as undergraduates and left as MSU alumni.
Saturday’s commencement ceremonies honored seniors who completed their degree requirements by the conclusion of the 2012 fall semester. In the morning’s ceremony, Gov. Rick Snyder was awarded an honorary Doctor of Law degree and was recognized as the ceremony’s keynote speaker.
Although the graduates were dressed in green and seated in the Izzone section of Breslin, the new alumni cheered for themselves and their accomplishments, rather than an MSU sports team.
“It’s been a long journey,” said Rebecca Doster, a hospitality business graduate. “(Receiving a degree) is a huge weight off of my shoulders, and now I can move on with my life.”
The procession began with a jazz rendition of the famous graduation tune “Pomp and Circumstance March” by the MSU Jazz Orchestra group, Be-Bop Spartans.
Next, Snyder took the stage.
“We might not agree on everything, but this is one topic I’m sure we’ll all agree,” Snyder said in his speech to graduates. “We’d like (graduates) to stay. We want to keep you in Michigan because you are our future.”
But not all were happy to see Snyder on stage.
About 40 protesters greeted the governor at the entrances to Breslin, angered by his decision to sign controversial right-to-work legislation earlier this week. The group held signs with sayings such as: “Snyder’s gift to Michigan: a divided state.”
The governor joked with the audience about the eventful week he experienced in Lansing.
“When delivering a commencement speech, you can either talk about public policy or talk to graduates,” Snyder said to the crowd. “Believe me, I’ve talked enough about public policy this week.”
Rose Cooper, a graduate of the Korean Language Program, was chosen to represent the class of 2012 during the morning ceremony. Cooper spoke about how embracing failure can be a catalyst for change.
Cooper, who looked young, revealed she was a 50-year-old graduate who had been dropping out of MSU and re-enrolling since 1984
But this time, with a smile spread across her face and tears dripping from her eyes, Cooper proclaimed her success.
“It’s never too late,” Cooper said. “As long as you have life and breath in you, as long as you keep trying, you know what they say, ‘Spartans will’.”
The Senior Class Council presented the senior gift to MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon in the form of a check for the Support Our Spartans Student Emergency Needs Fund, a division of Student Affairs and Services that assists students in financial need because of unexpected emergencies.
The senior gift has been an annual tradition of the graduating class since 1873 when the first gift, the MSU rock on Farm Lane, was given to the university.
After degrees and honors were awarded, Simon concluded the ceremonies by telling the graduates not to forget their Spartan roots.
“Though much has changed along the banks of the Red Cedar since I enrolled in 1970, the values of the university remain,” Simon said. “Congratulations Spartans. Go green, and come home often.”