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Tom Smart, Tom Smart, Deseret News
Students celebrate at the opening of Utah Valley University commencement ceremony.

OREM — Robert Gay, CEO of private equity firm Huntsman Gay Global Capital, told more than 4,500 Utah Valley University graduates and their supporters Friday that "you can make a difference." 

Gay shared a lesson he learned from his father, who Gay said grew up as a poor boy in Provo. "No matter your circumstance, your time, or place, each and every one of you can make a difference. That was his life's lesson to me. Don't make excuses about what you have or do not have or how smart you are."

Gay, who received an honorary doctorate during the university's 70th commencement ceremony, focused his remarks around the importance of service.

"I worry that some of you may simply see the task before you only to make a living to support yourself (and your) family rather than do something that has a significant impact upon the lives of those around you."

A degree also brings great responsibility, Gay said

"My great life lesson, learned in the trenches of this world, that the great challenge before you is not about some job, but whether you will forget about yourself and focus on others."

He continued, "If you will do that one thing, you will not only succeed, but your life will inspire others with purpose, meaning and success, and you will become a builder of souls and not a passerby in the mainstream of mediocrity."

Gay encouraged graduates to ignore the "deviations" of a secular world and focus on their "ability to impact."

"You will only have the impact you can and need to have as you move to the bell sounds of your heart," Gay said. 

UVU President Matthew Holland spoke to graduates about the importance of moving forward in life with confidence.

"Whatever dangers lurk on the geo-political front, and whatever frustrations you may be facing on the personal front, it is crucial that you move forward, building off this marvelous university education you have received, and engaging in some vital work," he said.

During the ceremony, 81 certificates of completion, 1,906 associate degrees, 2,418 bachelor degrees and 25 master degrees were conferred upon graduates of UVU's largest ever graduating class. The class represents all 50 states, several territories and 60 foreign countries. 

Other speakers included UVU alumni association president Terry L. Fund Jr. and student body president Richard Portwood. 

Honorary degrees were awarded to Gay, Joan Dixon, a community collaboration facilitator for Timpanogos Community Network and United Way board member, and Hal Wing, Little Giant Ladders founder and principal donor to the university's track and field facility.

College convocations were scheduled to take place both before and after the commencement at various locations on UVU campus Friday.