Published: May 9, 2019

Graduates pose for a photo under a blow-up Forever Buffs arch


CU Boulder conferred more than 8,500 degrees Thursday during an abbreviated spring 2019 commencement ceremony at Folsom Field. The ceremony and remarks by commencement speaker Savannah Sellers, an alumna and correspondent for NBC News and MSNBC, were cut short due to cold temperatures and snow.

Inclement weather didn’t dampen graduates’ spirits, though, with some members of the class of 2019 arriving in ski goggles, snow boots and snuggly, animal-themed onesies. Meantime, impromptu snowball fights punctuated the ceremony. An estimated 20,000 people were in attendance.  

After introductory remarks from Commencement Marshal Bud Coleman, Chancellor Philip DiStefano took the podium to honor CU President Bruce Benson and his wife Marcy. Benson, who became president in March 2008, was in attendance for his final CU Boulder commencement before retiring from the university on June 30.

“The Bensons have served our university for years, in many capacities, long before taking on this top leadership role,” said DiStefano. “Their generosity, fundraising and leadership have led directly to success and opportunities for our students.”

On behalf of the campus community, DiStefano also presented Benson with a gift to recognize his contributions to CU Boulder and the broader university system.

The chancellor then introduced Sellers, who spoke briefly before the conferral of degrees and other honors.

Sellers is a correspondent for NBC News and MSNBC and co-host of Stay Tuned, NBC’s Generation Z news brand. At age 27, she is among the university’s youngest ever commencement speakers—if not the youngest.

Sellers addressed the class of 2019 directly, offering tips for achieving their goals and overcoming adversity. 

“If you’re dreaming big enough, chasing your dream is going to be hard. It means your journey is going to have a lot of missteps and dead ends,” said Sellers. “Success depends on how well you cope with what’s hard.”

DiStefano concluded the ceremony with the conferral of degrees to fall 2018 and 2019 spring and summer candidates: 6,595 bachelor’s degrees, 1,421 master’s degrees, 176 law degrees and 427 doctoral degrees.*

DiStefano also awarded honorary degrees to Stanley Ruttenberg, posthumously; alumnus and retired Vice Admiral Herman A. Shelanski; and Peter Zoller. Alumna Kazunori Takato received the University Medal.

*Note: These figures were updated April 25, 2019.