University of Montana in-person debut at a stadium
On Saturday, May 1, nearly 1,400 students from the University of Montana received their diplomas at two ceremonies inside Washington Grizzly Stadium.
The guest speaker at the 9:00 a.m. event was William ‘Bill’ Franke, businessman and philanthropist, whose name donation changed the School of Forestry to the WA Franke School of Forestry and Conservation.
Franke was awarded an honorary doctorate at the ceremony by UM President Seth Bodnar.
Franke, a world leader in the aviation industry, spoke to students who had resisted the COVID 19 pandemic until graduation.
“About 15 months ago you are heading into the homestretch ready to take your final year’s victory lap,” Franke began. “Then a deadly virus started to spread one drop at a time until the global COVID-19 pandemic effectively brought the world to a halt. In no time, your academic experience was disrupted. You’ve been sent home, learning in person has been replaced by zoom sessions, from your apartment, or worse yet from your parents’ basement. “
Franke praised the graduates for their tenacity to persevere to the end.
“Despite all the roadblocks and detours, you have remained focused and persevering in pursuing your academic goals, and that is very, very important,” he said. “Studies and statistics show beyond any doubt that when students choose to withdraw, even temporarily, from university, they are much less likely to graduate. But despite these historically difficult circumstances, you did whatever it took to complete your education. Congratulations.”
Franke then made the transition to share the facts of the whole new world they would enter after graduation.
“Thanks to an ever-increasing dependence on production and cross-border markets, the world has never been smaller,” he said. “Internationalization has produced a hyper-connected global economy. Internationalization creates emerging markets as well as career opportunities. In fact, virtually any career you choose to pursue will be affected by internationalization. “
Franke urged graduates to embrace the new world of business, science and conservation.
“It would be hard not to agree that the world is changing,” he said. “Don’t be afraid of it. Don’t be afraid of it. Be a part of it, capitalize on it, talk it out. The classes of 2020 and 2021 are about to face challenges, which had not been seen since the Great Depression and the post-World War II period. I am sure you are ready. We need you to be ready. “
The speaker for the 2:00 p.m. ceremony was Aislinn Roux, a three-time UM graduate and daughter of Bonnie Heavy Runner, who received a posthumous honorary doctorate from UM President Seth Bodnar.
Since there was no in-person debut in 2020, both classes graduated on Saturday.