I was surprised how much it meant when my husband walked in the University of Utah graduation ceremony this weekend.  I thought the things he had learned were sufficient reward, but this weekend, my perspective changed.

There’s something energizing about being in a huge room filled with hundreds of people who have just accomplished something significant in their lives.

They all came from different backgrounds, but they had all worked hard, overcome challenges, and succeeded in completing a rigorous course of study during which they had been stretched.  Doubtless, they all overcame a variety of challenges along the way.  At least one was the first college graduate in his or her family.  Others had young families, and it was fun to see their children in the audience cheering for them.  Still others had children who could be graduating from college themselves, and it was rewarding to see the hugs, the support, the commitment to learning and the happy celebrations.  The speaker, Liz Murray, of “From Homeless to Harvard” fame, spoke of homeless nights and dreaming of what could happen if she could get an education.  There’s something in life’s challenges, she said, that brings into focus the things that matter most.  She was beautiful, articulate, and refined…inspiring.

So there was a lot to celebrate, and it was nice to take the time to reflect on the late nights with homework, the early mornings running for the campus shuttles, new things learned, the engaging discussions we’ve had along the way, where we started and where we have come.  It was an evening celebrating excellence and accomplishment.

Though I don’t know many of the hundreds who were wearing the black graduation gown, they will help create the community I live in and raise my family in.  I suppose someone who graduated may be my child’s doctor someday.  There were bankers and economists, musicians and MBAs, Masters of public administration, educators, scientists, engineers, lawyers, accountants and others who will now contribute to building our community.

And there were families cheering, because there’s something about growth and accomplishment that inspires and energizes.  Similar celebrations have occurred across the state at our various institutions of higher education over the past few weeks.  Graduation is a time to celebrate where you have come, to appreciate those who have helped along the way, and to then look forward to where you can go.  Life is filled with opportunity, and education is a wonderful facilitator to opening new doors and to giving you more to contribute.

By Jana Scott, blog coordinator