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More than 1,600 graduate from UW-Whitewater
WHITEWATER—Cell phones to silent, tassels to the right.
Those were the last instructions UW-Whitewater's Class of 2015 heard as college students.
On Saturday, 1,634 students sweated through graduation ceremonies at the school's Kachel Fieldhouse. The gym was a sea of gently waving programs, as parents and students tried to keep cool in the muggy air.
--Who was there: Most of the students come from an 80-mile radius around Whitewater, said Chancellor Richard Telfer. However, the school also hosts students from 30 foreign countries.
Neta Ron came to UW-W from Israel. Her husband, Shai Ron, was recruited to play basketball for the men's basketball team.
On Saturday, Neta Ron was receiving a Bachelor's in Fine Arts, with a specialty in metals. She plans to attend graduate school at the Rhode Island School of Design.
What did she like the best about studying in Whitewater?
“My mentor (associate professor) Teresa Faris,” Ron said. “She demands good work. Anything less than excellent is not acceptable. I owe my future career to her.”
--Who was missing? Nine members of the UW-Whitewater baseball team received their degrees earlier this week. As their classmates were graduating, they were playing in the regional finals in La Crosse.
The team lost in heartbreaker to Concordia-Chicago, 8-7.
In the graduating student line: “I don't know if I want to live in Milwaukee. There are so many college students there.”
A grandfather sitting in the balcony was watching the graduates try to find their chairs: “How smart are they if they can't find their own chairs? They must have missed that day.”
Emily Martin was graduating with a degree in accounting. She was also one of the few graduates with a decorated mortarboard.
Why didn't more students liven up those dull black hats?
“Because they tell us not to,” Martin said.
Her mortarboard had a pink background and the words “Still clueless” on it. A pink puffball completed the work.
In his introduction, Telfer celebrated the school's 147-year history in the community.
“The students make this community a vibrant place to live,” he said. “The community gives them opportunities.”
--At the top of her class
Raechel Liska was picked as this year's student speaker.
Liska, who graduated with a 4.00 grade point average, serves as the battalion commander in the school's Army Reserve Officer Training Corps. She is also a volunteer EMT with the Whitewater Rescue squad.
Each year, the ROTC ranks its nearly 6,000 cadets nationwide. The rankings are reflective of the students' grades, physical fitness and leadership qualities. Liska ranks in the top 10 percent.
In her speech, Liska talked about responding to an ambulance call. On the way, she speculated about how serious the injuries or accident would be.
Instead, Liska found an older man suffering from a flu-like illness who needed transport to the hospital.
As she was getting out of the ambulance, the older man looked at Liska and, thanking her for her work, said, “It made a difference to me.”
Those six words transformed her view of the world, she said.
“We all have the ability to make a difference,” Liska said. “And when we know that, we have a responsibility to make a difference.”