INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — On a glorious Tahoe spring Saturday, Sierra Nevada College held its 43rd Annual Commencement, fittingly outdoors under trees and sunshine. Graduating students received diplomas in front of about 600 friends and family members.
SNC President Lynn Gillette welcomed students and guests, and then addressed graduating students.
“I am extremely proud of you. We all are. You were great — and being great is fun,” he said.
Anna K. Jarschke gave the Valedictory Address, aptly encouraging attendees to, “gaze upon one of the most beautiful places you may ever see.”
She raised a cheer when she announced the class of 2013 was the largest graduating class in Sierra Nevada College history. In total, 144 students graduated the 2012-13 school year with bachelor degrees, while another 132 grad students received masters degrees.
She then encouraged fellow students to “have confidence in what you have learned here,” before ending with a quote from Einstein: “Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is to not stop questioning.”
Tori Murden McClure, president of Spalding University, delivered the commencement address. Murden McClure is best known as the first woman to row across the Atlantic Ocean solo. She is also an accomplished mountain climber and holds two masters’ degrees and a law degree.
“It would be a lie to say this is your day,” she said. “This day belongs to those who raised you and supported you. And some of them probably thought they would never see this day.”
She spoke of failing on her first attempt to cross the Atlantic solo in a row boat, when she was caught in a hurricane. Muhammad Ali, whom she worked with, had advice for her: “Tory, you don’t want to be the woman who almost made it across the ocean,” she recounted. She succeeded on her second attempt.
“Don’t take yourself too seriously — nobody else does,” she told graduates. “Don’t wait until later in life to become an eccentric … Keep company of those searching for the truth, and not those who think they have found it.”
The mood of students was festive, as some wore brightly colored sunglasses, some wore colorful sneakers with their black robes, while others had decorated their mortar boards. The audience sat under direct sun, many fanning themselves with commencement programs.
Both undergraduate and graduate students from SNC’s three campuses of Incline Village, Las Vegas and Reno received diplomas as their future plans were announced. Many are already employed in their fields of study; others have been accepted to graduate schools.
Not all students were preparing to enter the workforce for the first time.
Departmental Scholar Jim Pollock, who graduated Summa Cum Laude in environmental science and ecology, left the Air Force where he was a flight engineer on the Air force’s largest aircraft, the C5A Galaxy Transport.
“I’m entering phase two of life,” he said. He said his military training of “having a mission and getting it done” helped him at Sierra Nevada College. He said he would now like to go on to graduate school and become a scientist, something he said is just as exciting as his career in the Air Force.
Cynthia Wigart, who graduated Cum Laude in Humanities, summed up graduation day.
“I’m 45 years old and am about to graduate from a cool school,” she said, adding that she is not finished with education and plans to enter the masters program in teaching at SNC.
After the last students received their diplomas, the graduating class stood, throwing their mortar boards skyward, cheering one another on and hugging.
Ski Business and Resort Management graduate Matt Craig posed for snapshots with family members from San Diego and Arizona.
“I’m so proud of him,” said his grandmother, Denise Pennell. “I wouldn’t have missed this for the world. I still remember when he and his brother started playing baseball at age three. When he would pitch, his arm would go down as his foot went back and up… I don’t know where all those years went. He’s so tall, so good looking and so smart.”
“I’m 45 years old and am about to graduate from a cool school.”