Commencement address asks, 'How will you respond when your moment comes?'

December 20, 2013

The University of Colorado Boulder today honored candidates for 1,899 degrees, including 1,399 bachelor’s degrees, 310 master’s degrees, nine law degrees and 181 doctoral degrees.

The campus-wide event, held in the Coors Events Center, was a celebratory occasion marked with occasional outbursts of joy from graduates and their families.

Addressing the graduates, Hazel Barnes Prize winner and commencement speaker Kristi Anseth, distinguished professor of chemical and biological engineering, shared that she had launched an impromptu research project amongst her students and colleagues, assessing how much they remembered about the speakers at their own commencement ceremonies. The odds were not her in favor, so she wanted to leave the graduates with some simple advice they might remember.

She shared a story about a famous tightrope walker named "The Great Blondin," who in 1859 crossed Niagara Falls on a tightrope. Once famous, he declared to a crowd that amassed to watch him cross the falls (which he did numerous times) that he intended to cross on a tightrope pushing a wheelbarrow. He asked the crowd if they thought he could do it, and all hands went up. He then pointed to one man in the crowd and said if the man was certain he could cross the falls, then he should get in the wheelbarrow.

“There will be times in your life when knowing things won’t matter as much as how you respond to the unanticipated, scary or unexpected, and when that happens you’ll have to decide whether or not to get into the wheelbarrow,” she said.

Her last bit of advice to the graduates was to keep an open mind wherever life might lead.

“Whatever strong belief you now hold about what it means to be successful, I hope you will stay open to the possibility that you may have got it all wrong and graciously accept your new awareness when it comes, with gratitude and humility,” she said.

Dr. David C. Fajgenbaum was slated to receive the Distinguished Service Award for his exceptional contributions to the nation, but was unable to attend and his award was accepted on his behalf. Fajgenbaum’s research and advocacy efforts have brought national attention to the issue of college students dealing with grief. He also is a tireless advocate for brain cancer research, rare disease research and college students’ bereavement.

Due to recent academic calendar changes, this ceremony will be the last winter ceremony held on a Friday. Beginning with the with the re-establishment of campus reading days in the 2014-15 academic year, both the winter and spring ceremonies will move to Saturday morning.

Full text of Professor Anseth’s address will be available on the Commencement website. The text of Chancellor DiStefano’s address is available on the Chancellor’s website.

Share your graduation thoughts in the CU-Boulder Facebook winter commencement photo album, and look for your social media posts in our Storify at www.colorado.edu/social/2013-winter-commencement.

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