By Chase Rheam
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Hundreds of Oklahoma State University students from the Spears School of Business and the College of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources listened to the words of an accomplished former astronaut before receiving their undergraduate degrees Saturday morning.
OSU President Burns Hargis welcomed friends and family to the ceremony before introducing three speakers, including Oklahoma A&M Board of Regents member Andy Lester, Faculty Council Chair Ken Bartels and past president of the OSU Student Government Association Flint Holbrook.
Lester congratulated the students on a momentous occasion.
“I have to tell you that this is my favorite day on the academic calendar,” he said. “It celebrates the culmination of your hard work and it marks the beginning, the commencement if you will, of your new life with your newly earned diploma.”
Lester said the hard work would not have been possible had it not been for the support of faculty, family and friends.
Bartels said the graduates’ future is very bright.
“To be here today, you have been good listeners, have asked us tough questions and have been determined as well as dedicated to accomplish your path at OSU as well as in life,” Bartels said.
Holbrook said OSU is one of the most “dynamic, caring and just fun campus communities in the nation.” He also spoke about the growth of the university over the past five years.
“Through all those successes, we have to look back and think one of the most impressive things is how we’ve stuck together through those difficult times like 12 times when we lost classmates or when we stood by the Serna, Budke and Branstetter families in their time of need,” Holbrook said. “That’s what makes you really proud to be a Cowboy.”
Hargis then introduced the guest speaker, former NASA astronaut and Air Force Lt. Gen. Tom Stafford.
“It’s not often that any of us in our lifetimes will be up close to a true American hero, but that’s what’s happening today with Tom Stafford,” Hargis said.
Hargis said Stafford was inspired to fly while watching DC-3s. Excelling at math and science, he was appointed to the U.S. Naval Academy. After graduating, he was offered a spot in the newly formed U.S. Air Force, graduating first in his class from pilot school and becoming a teacher, co-writing textbooks. However, Stafford would continue on to be appointed an astronaut in 1962, piloting many flights, including Apollo 10 and taking part in the first rendezvous in space in December 1965.
“Not bad for a boy from western Oklahoma,” Hargis said.
Stafford, who was born in Weatherford, said he had the utmost respect for the hard work put in by all the graduates, including those who may have had to take on multiple jobs or support a family while attending school.
“To the individuals receiving their degrees today — today is your day and we’re all so very proud of you,” he said.
Stafford said he has observed OSU’s strides in enhancing its curriculum and the rapid growth of its facilities and academic focus over the past few years.
“This year, in this month, we mark the 44th anniversary of the Apollo 10 mission which I commanded to the moon,” Stafford said. “Golly, it doesn’t seem that long ago.”
He described details of the event that served as a dry run for what would be the Apollo 11 landing and man’s first steps on the moon. He looked forward to the advances in science and technology and the effects it will have on the world in hundreds and even thousands of years from now.
Stafford then turned to how these changes have already begun to impact the graduates.
“I will point out that the competition that each of you face today is far greater than the competition that I had,” he said.
He encouraged the students to fully use their degrees.
“Now that each of you have received this outstanding education here at OSU, I would challenge each of you to put this knowledge to maximum use,” Stafford said. “Not only to the benefit of yourself, but to the benefit of humankind.”
He outlined a few guidelines toward the graduate’s success, including developing a plan, taking action, continuing to learn, persistence, hard work, analyzing details, focusing time and resources and having a good attitude.
“It is your attitude, not your aptitude, that will lead you to the highest altitude in your life,” he said.
Stafford closed his speech by wishing the students well.
“To the class of 2013, congratulations again, the best of luck in the future,” he said. “God bless you.”