‘Welcome to the struggle’: 169 Fort Lewis students graduate

“It says ‘thank you, Grandfather, Creator, for blessing these men and women,’” said Louis Aragon, far right, of the Lakota honor song he and the rest of the members of the Bala Sinem Choir sang and drummed Saturday for the 2012 graduates at the Fort Lewis College Winter Commencement. 2006 graduate Justin Boyd, left (wearing Western hat), a 2006 graduate, and junior psychology/Native American Studies major Terrance Todonne, right of Boyd, take part in the ceremony. Enlarge photo

STEVE LEWIS/Durango Herald

“It says ‘thank you, Grandfather, Creator, for blessing these men and women,’” said Louis Aragon, far right, of the Lakota honor song he and the rest of the members of the Bala Sinem Choir sang and drummed Saturday for the 2012 graduates at the Fort Lewis College Winter Commencement. 2006 graduate Justin Boyd, left (wearing Western hat), a 2006 graduate, and junior psychology/Native American Studies major Terrance Todonne, right of Boyd, take part in the ceremony.

Nearly 170 Fort Lewis College students received diplomas Saturday in the college’s midyear commencement ceremony at the Whalen Gymnasium. The students were welcomed into the “struggle” to create a better world by Jennifer Stollman, assistant professor of history.

Earlier in the program’s invocation, Marcy Jung asked for a moment of silence in remembrance of the 26 children and adults killed Friday at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school. Jung is associate professor of exercise science and gender and women’s studies.

Stollman also referred to the Connecticut shooting in her remarks, saying, “We wake up to a day of mourning,” but added that she wanted to speak to the students “not just as the graduating class, but as members of the world community.

“This is a day of greatness for you,” she said. “You are a generation interested in healing the world. ... We have been waiting for you.”

Stollman’s focus was on human rights, saying that older generations are becoming less able of continuing the effort. She encouraged students to do whatever they can to help secure human rights at home and around the world.

“To save a person is to save a nation. There are no small acts in human rights,” she said.

Stollman reiterated that these young people must now “assume the mantle of human rights,” adding, “welcome to the struggle.”

Stollman this year was designated as FLC’s 2012 Alice Admire Outstanding Teacher.

Alice Admire was an assistant professor of English at FLC until 1974. She was the daughter of Elza “Pa” Needham, for whom Needham Elementary School is named.

In her welcome to graduates and visitors, FLC President Dene Kay Thomas told graduates that they were “surrounded by people who care about your future,” adding that “now it’s your turn ... to applaud them,” which the students did.

“Forging your trail” will take integrity, excitement and enthusiasm, Thomas said, quoting William Whipple, a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

In keeping with the themes, FLC Faculty Senate President Charles Riggs said that “the things we fight over are cultural inventions.”

Riggs said that the graduates were not turned into left-leaning liberals because of their liberal arts education. Instead, their education had turned them into considerate, thinking adults, he said.

“We need your voice in the world to be a voice of reason,” Riggs said.

The graduation was “a day we’ve all been dreaming about,” said Byron Tsabetsaye, president of Associated Students of Fort Lewis College and a graduating senior.

Later in the ceremony. Thomas presented the FLC Distinguished Service Award to Henry and Jean Cooper of the John and Sophie Otten Foundation at FLC’s Native American Center for continued support of Native American students and programs.

That was followed by a Native American celebration song from the Bala Sinem Choir under the direction of Louis Aragon.

Graduation candidates next received recognition of their accomplishments and received congratulations and encouragement from Joe Mauro, president of the FLC Alumni Association.

He was immediately followed by a group sing-a-long of the FLC alma mater.

The ceremonies also opened with music from the FLC College Brass Ensemble directed by Department of Music Chairman Marc Reed, and the processional started by the Westwind Pipes and Drums under Maj. Jerry Crawford, then the Pomp and Circumstance played by the brass ensemble.

One 2012 graduate expresses her individuality at the Fort Lewis College Winter Commencement. Enlarge photo

STEVE LEWIS/Durango Herald

One 2012 graduate expresses her individuality at the Fort Lewis College Winter Commencement.

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