The air in the University of Toledo’s Savage Arena was electric with excitement Saturday morning as graduating students marched in and took their seats.
Families and friends waved, cheered, and whistled when their graduates came through the doors and down the aisle.
Some held signs proclaiming their support of their loved ones or clutched flowers and helium balloons to give to them after the ceremony.
“The American dream is alive and well here in Toledo, notwithstanding the tragic events in Connecticut yesterday,” university President Dr. Lloyd Jacobs said during welcoming remarks, referring to the shooting at an elementary school that left a total of 28 dead.
Two area colleges held commencement exercises Saturday. UT bestowed degrees on 2,132 candidates from the summer and fall semesters from 11 of the university’s colleges. There were 686 candidates for doctoral, education specialist, and master’s degrees, as well as graduate certificates, and 1,446 for bachelor’s and associate's degrees.
Bowling Green State University held its commencement exercises Friday and Saturday. Of the 972 diplomas granted in the Stroh Center, 202 were through the graduate college.
Addressing the BGSU graduates on Friday was 1982 alumnus Doug Cahill, president of Oreck Corp., best known as a vacuum-cleaner manufacturer. The speaker at the colleges of arts and sciences and education and human development at Saturday morning commencement exercises was 1975 alumnus Steve Hanson, president of Hanson Inc., a Toledo digital agency.
This year for the first time, BGSU graduates who have served or are serving in the military sported red, white, and blue cords in addition to their college colors as part of their regalia. Ten degree candidates had this distinction.
At the University of Toledo, Anwar Gargash, the United Arab Emirates’ minister of state for foreign affairs and minister of state for the federal national council, gave the keynote address. He was awarded an honorary degree of doctor of public service for his work in public affairs, economics and renewable energy, culture, and international leadership.
Mr. Gargash, who attended UT and ultimately graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science from George Washington University, talked about the “can-do spirit” he encountered as an undergraduate, remarking that it is still alive today, despite an interlude of more than 30 years.
“Your entrepreneurial spirit that you have learned here will take you a long way,” he said. “But whatever you have learned so far, it’s not enough.” He encouraged the graduates to continue seeking knowledge and to consider careers in international politics.
“We are in desperate need of people with calm heads who respect other points of view,” he said. “In other words, a typical University of Toledo graduate.”
One of the notable BGSU graduates is Ryan Sanner of Bowling Green, who has had to use a wheelchair since 2003. He graduated with a major in sports management and a minor in journalism.
Another is Dave Ruhl, who has worked at the Toledo Zoo for more than 10 years as its assistant director of facilities construction. His degree is in construction management.
One of the notable UT graduates is Trent Miller, an active-duty Army pilot who received a master’s degree in business administration in leadership. The 32-year-old Army captain, a Black Hawk helicopter pilot with more than 750 hours of combat flying time, has been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Many of the African-American graduates at UT wore colorful Kente stoles around their necks to pay honor to their heritage. Some students wore graduation caps which had been bedazzled with “jewels” or otherwise decorated.
Jamie King, 34, of Sylvania Township decorated her mortarboard in pink, shiny letters that said, “Done, Let's Party!”
“I’m a working mother and it's taken me a while to get through this,” said Ms. King, who received a bachelor’s degree in human resources. “It’s a long time coming.”
Another graduate, Lloyd Hathcock II, was surrounded by a large group of family and friends who came from Georgia and Florida to watch him receive his bachelor’s degree in nursing.
“He's my one and only, and I’m a very very proud mama today,” said Tracey Wright, who traveled from West Palm Beach, Fla., to attend the ceremonies.
Stephanie Oxner, who received a bachelor’s degree in communication, was accompanied by her 14-year-old son, Terrell Roberts, Jr.
“Watching her made me think about what it might be like when I graduate,” Terrell said. “I’m very proud of her.”
Contact Tanya Irwin at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or 419-724-6066.