'No one, no group, no persuasion, owns your future,' ASU President Crow told thousands of graduates
Thousands of Arizona State University graduates who earned advanced degrees on Monday were asked to remain positive in these tumultuous times and to use their expertise to improve their communities.
More than 5,000 people earned master’s and PhD degrees from ASU this semester, and many of them celebrated at Graduate Commencement at Desert Financial Arena on Monday morning.
ASU President Michael Crow told the graduates to be optimistic and forge ahead.
He told them, “… Stop getting sucked into information from other people who are maniacally engaged in social media as if that is reality.
“… The world is not going to hell in a handbasket. Set your own personal ambitions and then drive your life forward to those."
Overall, nearly 18,400 ASU students graduated this spring, including nearly 6,000 ASU Online students.
Former Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Ruth V. McGregor, an alumna of the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law, received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree at Monday’s ceremony. She was appointed to the Arizona Supreme Court in 1998 and remained until her retirement in 2009, serving as chief justice the last four years.
She told the graduates to wield the same intellectual curiosity they cultivated during their studies to help their communities.
“The topics of your dissertations reveal the amazing scope of the questions you asked and answered as you satisfied your academic curiosity," McGregor said. "Now, what if you apply that same curiosity to find ways to use your knowledge to improve the world around you?”
McGregor said that a few people will truly change the world, but most people will not, and that’s OK.
“Because we can all do something to make the world around us better, a world we want to live in,” she said.
“What if you mentor students? What if you use your knowledge to improve public education for those who follow you, or to make education more affordable?
“What if you helped a child in your neighborhood feel safer? What if you find ways to make the lives of the elderly more rewarding? What if you organize your neighbors to help one another?
“Your projects don’t have to be earth-shattering. They just need to make our world better.”
Nicole Mayberry, the outgoing president of the Graduate Professional Student Association, graduated with her PhD in human and social dimensions of science and technology in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society on Monday, after earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at ASU.
She shared her 10-year journey at ASU with her fellow graduates.
Mayberry lived in 20 different homes and attended 16 different schools when growing up after her parents divorced. She witnessed domestic violence and often went to bed hungry. But she knew that education would be a way to a stable future, so she studied hard to go to a good college.
She went off to a small college in Brooklyn, New York, but left after two days, realizing it wasn’t for her.
So she came to ASU, after initially rejecting the school.
“Classes had started a week earlier, the dorms were full and I had scoffed at ASU and declined their admission months earlier,” she said. Still, she hoped something would work out.
“I’m not kidding when I say that not 15 minutes after arriving at Student Services, ASU had reinstated my acceptance and my full academic scholarship, and that night I moved into the Hassayampa Academic Village,” she said.
“I am just one of many stories of inclusion at ASU.”
Preksha Patel, a master's degree graduate in business analytics from India, poses for a photo prior to receiving her degree at Graduate Commencement.Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News
Ceremony announcer Mike Wong lets the audience know the procession is beginning, as carriers bring their school's gonfalons into Graduate Commencement.Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News
President Michael Crow speaks to master's degree and doctoral students, their families, friends and faculty durignt Graduate Commencement.Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News
Family and friends fill the arena as many of the more than 5,000 master's and doctoral students receive their degrees at Graduate Commencement at Desert Financial Arena.Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News
Alejandro Gomez (right) receives his master's degree hood from Cronkite Associate Professor Dawn Gilpin during Graduate Commencement. Gomez graduated with a master's degree in English.Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News
Tara Sperry records herself receiving her master's hood by Thunderbird School Professor Lena Booth during the Graduate Commencement. Sperry earned her MTESOL (Master of Teaching English to Speakers of Other Language), and soon will be moving to Spain to teach English.Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News
Balloons fall at the end of Graduate Commencement on May 9 at Desert Financial Arena.Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News
PhD recipient Brianne Arviso holds some ceremonial balloons at the conclusion of Graduate Commencement. Arviso is a member of the Navajo Nation and is believed to be the first Native American to receive a doctoral degree in construction management.Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News
Later that night, students milled around the field at Sun Devil Stadium, taking selfies or waving and blowing kisses to loved ones in the stands as ASU held its graduation ceremony for nearly 13,000 undergraduate students.
A purple lei was thrown down to a young man, who proudly placed it around his neck.
A woman searched the stands at Sun Devil Stadium, saw the face she was looking for and broke into a wide smile.
Students' caps were adorned with ribbons, bows, flowers — artwork of every conceivable kind — and words that reflected their accomplishment. Family members held bouquets of roses and pointed their cellphones to the field, hoping to catch a picture of their soon-to-be-graduate.
Pride, decked out in maroon and gold.
Finally, it was time.
ASU President Michael Crow began his speech with a question: “Who is ready to graduate right now?”
The shouts of joy answered him.
Crow struck an optimistic tone, telling the students he isn’t worried about the future, “because of you people. That’s a very, very powerful thing to say to you. You’re going out to a place where you’re going to make things happen.”
He also praised the students for working through the COVID-19 pandemic to graduate this spring, calling it “a day of thanksgiving and forward progress.”
“Tens of millions of people suffered from a global pandemic, and here you are graduating from one of the greatest universities in the country, and so many are not,” Crow said. “I hope you remember that.”
Crow also told the students to understand the gifts they have been given, to use them and advance with them.
“No one, no group, no persuasion, owns your future,” Crow said. “Only you do.”
Crow presented an honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters to Lonnie G. Bunch III, the 14th secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, an award-winning author and a former educator at universities across the country — including American University, the University of Massachusetts and The George Washington University.
Bunch smiled as he began his commencement speech, saying it was dangerous to give a historian a microphone and a captive audience. But, he said, he promised to heed the advice of his daughter, who told him, “Don’t be a historian. Be brief.”
Bunch told the students to “remember what you’ve learned here, what you accomplished here and, more than anything, remember and cherish the relationships that were birthed here.”
He noted how a college education can change a life, telling a story about his grandparents, who were sharecroppers on a cotton plantation in North Carolina for the first 27 years of their lives. He said they refused to let others set limits for them, took 11 years to graduate from college and “gave me a chance.”
“You have the power to affect change, the opportunity to have an impact on the lives of your families and, really, the broader community,” Bunch said “... Find your own good fight.”
Bunch then recounted a conversation he had with Studs Terkel, a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and historian from Chicago.
“He was always a champion of the little man and woman,” Bunch said. “But when he was near 90, he said to me, ‘I can’t hear much. I can’t see much. I can’t stand for long, so all I want you to do is point me in the direction of where I can do good.’”
“I want you to always point yourself in the direction where you can do good,” Bunch told the students. “With this diploma comes the responsibility to use your skills, to use your creativity, to use your education to live a good life and make this country better.”
Marwin Smiley, who received his bachelor's degree in liberal studies Monday, hugs his mother, Eleanor Smiley, before Undergraduate Commencement ceremony on Monday evening at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe.Photo by Mike Sanchez/ASU
Adriana Bustillos, a computer systems engineering major, and CJ Sturgess, a computer science major, pose for a photo before going inside the stadium for the ceremony.Photo by Mike Sanchez/ASU
Graduation cap decorations can be playful, like the mermaid-inspired one by Lindsey Lorette (organizational leadership - project management), or they can be poignant reminders of a grad's story and inspiration, like the one sporting a photo of Paige Pazdur (organizational leadership) and her mother, Mary Liz Martin, who died when Pazdur was a teen. "This is for her," Pazdur said.Photo by Penny Walker/ASU
Barbara Barrett leads the Class of '72 Golden Grads into the ceremony. Each year, the ASU Alumni Association recognizes grads from 50 years ago. Barrett, one of the namesakes of ASU's honors college, earned bachelor’s, master’s and law degrees from ASU and went on to distinguish herself in a range of roles, including serving as ambassador to Finland and secretary of the Air Force.Photo by Mike Sanchez/ASU
Faculty members file into the ceremony. It was the first in-person spring commencement since May 2019, and many of those students who graduated in 2020 and 2021 took part in Monday's ceremony and were recognized by ASU President Crow.Photo by Mike Sanchez/ASU
Outstanding graduates watch a video spotlighting their achievements at the start of Undergraduate Commencement on Monday evening.Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU
Barbara Barrett poses for a photo with ROTC graduates Monday evening. Barrett, the first civilian woman to land in an F/A-18 Hornet on an aircraft carrier, leads the affairs of the Department of the Air Force, comprising the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Space Force.Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU
ASU President Michael Crow congratulates one of the outstanding graduates during Undergraduate Commencement on Monday evening.Photo by Mike Sanchez/ASU
ASU's newest alumni fill the field as loved ones fill the stands on a surprisingly mild evening May 9 at Sun Devil Stadium on the Tempe campus.Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU
(From right) Zach Schley, manufacturing engineering; Hector Espino, automotive engineering; Jordan Fourcher, technological entrepreneurship and management; Kiley Griffen, electrical systems engineering; and other new graduates of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering cheer as fireworks explode at the end of Undergraduate Commencement.Photo by Mike Sanchez/ASU
Written with contributions from ASU News reporters Mary Beth Faller and Scott Bordow.
Top photo: Clinical exercise and physiology master's degree graduate Molly Tomah poses for her sister, Katie Tomah, before Graduate Commencement on Monday, May 9, at Desert Financial Arena. The Tomahs are members of the Comanche Nation Tribe. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News