Light show, fireworks make UA's 2013 commencement ceremony a night to remember
Nearly 3,000 graduating students walked onto the turf of the Arizona Stadium on Friday night, in a cap and gown and waving at 22,000 visitors.
The 148th commencement celebration marked the first time graduation has been held in the stadium in more than 40 years.
Graduates smiled and waved at their family and friends through two large screens on each side of the stage and the stadium jumbotron.
During the finale, fireworks lit up the sky as a light show of red, white and blue colors shone from bracelets on each UA graduates’ wrist. Staff members rushed onto the field to pass out wristbands which lit up on cue when the graduates were told to raise their hands.
Several students said the new graduation location was exciting.
Allison Hagerman, a mining engineering graduate, waited, in a dress, high heels and a hardhat to represent her college, for her cue to take her seat at the football field.
“I was at last year’s [graduation] and this one blows it out of the water,” Hagerman said. “It’s a breath of fresh air, a new journey.”
Graduating after spending five years in college felt wonderful, Hagerman added.
After the graduates were seated, UA President Ann Weaver Hart took the stage along with members of the Arizona Board of Regents and faculty representatives. Hart then addressed the 2013 graduate class, encouraged them to thank their friends and families and shared the few memories she has of her own graduation.
Among those memories were excessive excitement, the lack of air conditioning and the inability to text her family during the ceremony, Hart joked. The details of her graduation are a blur, as they will be in many years for the students sitting in the stadium on Friday evening, Hart added.
“What I hope you do remember is that this was a day of celebration with family, with friends and with all those who are so proud of you at what you accomplished this day,” Hart said. “Your challenge is how you choose to face your possible futures, whether you do so with optimism and openness to the possibilities or with pessimism.”
LuAnn Leonard, vice-chair of the Board reminded students to reflect on their journeys in college and asked them to commit to making a difference in the future.
Katy Murray, president of the Associated Students of the University of Arizona in the 2012-13 academic year and graduate, also addressed students. Murray spoke about how the UA will change with renovations to Old Main, additions to Arizona Stadium and the streetcar running through campus.
Murray also reminded her peers of a few defining moments in pop culture and the news during the past four years.
“In the last four years, Taylor Swift came out with two new albums and more boyfriends than most of us will have in our entire lives,” Murray joked. “But with everything that’s happened around the country and around the world, we are sitting here today because we all came to this place with one goal in mind and that we all shared, and that was to graduate with the ability to make a difference, to get the most competitive jobs and to take on the world.”
Chairman and CEO of PetSmart Robert F. Moran was the commencement speaker for the celebration, as well as received an honorary degree.
Moran shared some of his experiences and gave the graduates advice on how to become successful as they chase their dreams.
“As you leave here, maintain a healthy disrespect for a status quo,” Moran said. “In your time here, you were taught to ask questions, to wonder why and look for a better way. Keep digging for that better way to do something, because there is always a better way.”
Moran also advised students to anticipate and go after change rather than waiting for it and to be courageous. Making wise choices is also important, Moran added.
“Don’t just do something you care about. Do something that matters … As you leave here ask yourself, are you ready to dedicate your intellect and your ambition to something that makes a difference?” Moran said. “I can’t wait to see what you accomplish.”
The dean of each college then recognized their graduates. Students stood and cheered as they heard their college name before Hart asked students to move their tassels to the left side as they became “Wildcats for life.”
“[Graduating] feels surreal but it feels perfect,” said Erica Isaacs, a biomedical engineering graduate. “It’s perfect timing, it’s perfect atmosphere, it’s the perfect people. It’s just perfect.”