U.S. Rep. Mary Fallin, R-Okla., encouraged graduates to consider remaining in Oklahoma while speaking at Oklahoma State University’s 116th Commencement at Gallagher-Iba Arena on Saturday.

“If at all possible, stay in Oklahoma, and invest yourself in Oklahoma,” said Fallin, a 1977 alumna of OSU. “If your life walk takes you away from the state, I ask that you represent Oklahoma well, and take the ‘Oklahoma Standard’ with you wherever you go, and continue to make us proud.”

Fallin spoke to both undergraduate commencement ceremonies Saturday. The morning ceremony recognized the graduates of the College of Human Environmental Sciences, the Spears School of Business and the College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology.

The afternoon ceremony recognized graduates of the Colleges of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, Arts and Sciences, and Education. Master’s and doctoral candidates took part in the Graduate College Commencement on Friday night. In all, approximately 1,600 students received graduate and undergraduate degrees.

“We congratulate all our graduates, their families and the OSU faculty on this special achievement,” said interim OSU President Marlene Strathe. “We wish our graduates all the best as they embark on the next exciting chapter in their lives. We appreciate their many contributions to our university and know they will be outstanding ambassadors for OSU.”

A college degree, Fallin said, will greatly enhance the ability of these new graduates to be successful, no matter how they measure or define “success.”

“Commencement also means the first existence of anything,” she said. “So now you start your new lives with the opportunity to reap the rewards of all your hard work and perseverance.”

Top scholarship and service to the nation and state were also applauded by Fallin.

She congratulated the approximate 80 students who received their degrees this fall with perfect grade point averages, and noted that a recent survey showed that OSU leads the nation in the number of doctorates awarded to American Indians.

Fallin also recognized the U.S. veterans in the graduating class, including OSU-Tulsa political science graduate Matt Stiner, a U.S. Marine, a veteran of the conflict in Iraq and a nationally recognized Truman Scholar.

Ashley Spess of Cleveland also earned her degree Saturday. A Truman candidate, Spess attempted to rescue a CASA chapter in Pawnee County through her own fund-raising efforts.

This fall’s graduating class included Philip A. Pina of Stillwater and Rosa L. Hedge of Edmond, the oldest male and females receiving degrees.

Pina, 63, received his bachelor’s of arts degree in history. Originally from Boston, he retired from the military and makes Stillwater his home.

Hedge, 61, received her doctor of education degree in Applied Educational Studies. She works for the Guthrie School District.

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