WEST VALLEY CITY Salt Lake City's Westminster College sent 623 new graduates on to bigger and better things Saturday during the 2008 commencement ceremony at the E Center.
The small (2,600 students) private college celebrated the advancing students and the school's 133rd year with music by the Utah Pipe Band, a commencement address by Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, and, of course, the formal conferring of degrees.
Huntsman opened his address with a quip that brought a roar of laughter from the entire arena.
"I've been here at the E Center a few times," Huntsman said. "I've taken a lap as part of an indoor motocross race. ... I played with a rock band on this stage ... and now, the coolest gathering of all, 623 graduates today. We honor you, but I've got bad news. The real event happens here in July when David Archuleta takes the stage."
Huntsman lauded students for their academic accomplishments and offered reminders of the responsibility that comes with the privilege of higher education, quoting lyrics from the U2 song "Crumbs From The Table" to help illustrate his point.
"Bono, the guy who plays in that band U2, expresses a sincere plea from one who has so little to one who has so much and really serves to kind of set the stage for what it is I'd like to say," the governor said.
"You speak of signs and wonders
I need something other
I would believe if I was able
But I'm waiting for crumbs from your table."
The theme of service to others and the urging toward a higher social purpose was woven throughout Huntsman's talk.
"I have a term for you, as graduates," Huntsman said. "Not a fiery send-off so much but just an injunction. Take your newfound knowledge and your brain power, which by the way you're privileged to receive, and fix the world. Fix the world."
One of Westminster's new graduates has just that on his mind as he takes his first steps toward post-graduation goals. Josh Brockbank, a 27-year-old from Salt Lake City who received his Bachelor of Science degree in nursing with magna cum laude honors Saturday, is aiming for a position at University Hospital.
"I'm hoping to work at the U.'s psych unit," Brockbank said. "How the brain works ... how behavior is affected, it's fascinating."
Brockbank plans to work for a year, then head toward graduate academic work in the nursing field, most likely at the University of Utah.
Proud family members were very much a part of the gathering and Portland, Ore., resident Claudette Webster was in attendance to watch her granddaughter, Shulamith Webster, receive her Bachelor of Arts in education. Webster was beaming as she talked about the accomplishments of Shulamith.
"This is a wonderful, wonderful day," Webster said. "Shulamith is following her mother, who is a teacher at Montana State University, into the field. We couldn't be prouder."
An uncle of the graduate, Tom Webster, said that Shulamith had already found a job, teaching kindergarten at a Utah elementary school.
Huntsman himself received a degree, of sorts, as part of the day's festivities. Westminster conferred an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree to the governor in honor of his record of service which has included time as CEO of the Huntsman Cancer Foundation, as ambassador to Singapore, as a federal trade representative and Deputy Secretary of Commerce.
The class of 2008 was, however, the focus of the day, and Huntsman sent them off with this final adage."It is not overly presumptuous to think the next 50 years may be the most important in the history of life on earth," Huntsman said. "The world is yours, go after it and remember that tomorrow is now."