Class of 2014 bids farewell to the UA
36,000 people attended The University of Arizona's 150th commencement at Arizona Stadium to congratulate the graduates in 2014. The ceremony ended with fire, smoke and fireworks, and Wilbur on a riser.
Red and blue fireworks shot high into the Tucson sky as graduates said a final farewell in front of thousands of friends and family members inside a buzzing Arizona Stadium for the UA’s 150th commencement ceremony on Saturday night.
Smoke machines, flamethrowers and a choreographed light show set the stage for the commencement ceremony.
As Wilbur danced away on a lift elevated above the football field, the crowd got on its feet. Blaring music set the tone for a final firework display on the north end of the stadium. Graduates put their arms around each other and swayed in unity, taking in the moment together.
“It’s finally over,” said Chloe Tarvin, a studio art graduate. “[There was] a lot of hard work and effort to reach this point. Nobody else in my family has ever been to a university so it’s a pretty big day for me. I’m ready to celebrate with the entire school.”
Before the night’s activities, the graduates waited eagerly behind the western stands of the stadium. Taking photos with one another and laughing in excitement, they waited for event staff to give them the OK to line up and make their entrance.
The first of many “U – OF – A” chants broke out, as the students’ anticipation peaked. Emotions ran strong as the realization of all their hard work was acknowledged in that moment.
Commencement kicked off with a video narrated by Arizona head basketball coach Sean Miller. A countdown clock was displayed on the stadium’s jumbotron on the south end.
“Three, two, one,” the crowd roared as fireworks shot into the sky and the familiar tune of “Pomp and Circumstance” played over the speakers as the students started making their way into the stadium.
In the center of the football field was a grand display highlighted by a cutout of the UA’s iconic Old Main building. The UA’s colors were emphasized by a series of red, white and blue reflecting lights,. Two large red structures equipped with speakers and two projection screens were the focal point of the spectacle, highlighting the night’s activities and displaying the faces of lively graduates.
Also on stage were chairs set up where Arizona Board of Regents members were sitting.
UA President Ann Weaver Hart introduced the evening and conducted the commencement all night, recognizing honorary students for their academic achievements as well as introducing guest speakers.
Morgan Abraham, former Associated Students of the University of Arizona president, recalled his fellow graduates’ collective experience throughout their time in school and drew a grand applause after taking a jab at the other “university up in Tempe.”
“They will never understand Arizona’s first and best university,” Abraham said.
Abraham ended his address to his fellow graduates with a message that complimented the overall theme of the night.
“Starting today, the world belongs to us and we are the ones that are going to change it,” he said. “Congratulations Wildcats and Bear Down!”
The commencement address was given by Anna Maria Chávez, CEO of the Girl Scouts of the USA and UA alumna, who passionately urged graduates to step into public service.
Recognizing an array of people, from military men and women to her parents who were in attendance, Chávez engaged the audience and spoke to the graduates about the importance of determination after school. She closed her address with a heartfelt congratulation that drew a large roar from both graduates and their supporters in the crowd.
At the end of the ceremony, the respective deans from each college recognized their graduate candidates who satisfied the requirements for their respective degrees. Graduates stood up when it was their turn and received their admission from the crowd for their hard work and effort.
Students used this time to wave, laugh and dance as they finished their goodbyes to the university. Tears filled the eyes of some students as they turned and thanked the crowd. The jumbotron displayed a student with the words “the world awaits” written on top of her cap.
“Ladies and gentleman of the class of 2014, the dance floor is open and they’re playing your song,” Hart said. “Consider yourselves Wildcats for life.”