CU Denver Spring 2022 Commencement Address

Chancellor Marks delivers the commencement address to CU Denver alumni and families

May 14, 2022

Thank you, Marshal Darbeheshti (Dar- beh- HESH- tee).

Good morning and welcome to the CU Denver 2022 commencement.

Today marks a moment that many of you — graduates, parents and family members, friends and supporters — have dreamed about for years. It is a milestone day — a signal of tremendous accomplishment and hard work. I know all the emotions you must be feeling: the excitement and hope, probably even a little bit of anxiety. I remember those emotions when I sat where you sat. So I want to tell you that what you’re feeling today and all of the many emotions you endured up to this point signify everything that is possible for your future.

And we are all here to celebrate that future together.

I want to welcome members of the platform party including the Regents of the University of Colorado; President of the University of Colorado, Todd Saliman, and representatives from the CU System Office of the President; and CU Denver’s senior administrators and academic deans. I’d also like to extend a welcome to Denver Councilwoman Jamie Torres.

The members of the Commencement Delegation are listed on page 1 of the program. You will meet some of them later in the ceremony.

I am also pleased to acknowledge our 2021 and 2022 CU Regents Awards honorees. The Regents Awards recognize outstanding achievements and extraordinary contributions to the University of Colorado, the state, the nation, and the world. Our 2021 and 2022 honorees are:

  • Honorary Degree Recipients:
    • Lauren Casteel
    • Don Johnson
    • Tenzing Rigdol
  • Distinguished Service Award recipients:
    • Wayne Cascio
    • Rebecca Kantor
  • And University Medal recipients:
    • Rick Gardner
    • Thomas Noel
    • Lola and Rob Salazar

The awardee citations — which include their bios and a list of their accomplishments — are listed in your program. Please join me in congratulating these remarkable honorees.

I’d like to recognize and thank our faculty. Would our faculty members please rise and remain standing? (PAUSE)

To all of our faculty: Thank you for your superb teaching, creative scholarship, and dedication to our incredible students and their success.

You may be seated.

Graduates, all of you have succeeded during one of the most challenging times in recent memory. You overcame a global pandemic, but you also joined our campus during a time of extraordinary growth and promise.

It’s been a journey for each and every one of you. And we’re so excited to celebrate all of you — our more than 2,200 graduating students this spring who have been a part of it. Our graduates come from 36 states across the U.S. as well as 21 nations around the world. They range in age by nearly 60 years. They represent leaders in our community, changemakers across Colorado and the world, and trailblazers in their own families. You will become the architects, artists, entrepreneurs, engineers, teachers, therapists, healthcare workers, social workers, mayors, and so much more. Our future will be determined by the passion and purpose of each of you. And I know from everything I’ve seen and heard and read about your achievements over the years that that future is very, very bright.

Let me hear you cheer if you are the first in your family to complete a degree.

Today marks an incredible milestone not only for these graduates, but also for their families and communities. Huge congratulations to all of you on this historic step!

And how many of you balanced school with a job, working your way through college or graduate school?

Now let me hear you cheer if you are a veteran, in the military now, or a graduate of the Army ROTC program.

These graduates volunteered to serve our country and protect our freedom, knowing they could be putting themselves in harm’s way. We owe them and their families a large debt of gratitude. Thank you.

And we have so many students who are parents. How many of you embarked upon your studies while raising children?

And now — how many of you couldn’t have succeeded in your studies without the help and encouragement and commitment from parents, kids, grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles, friends, and supporters, many of whom are here today cheering you on?

Yes, graduates, let’s give your families and supporters a huge round of applause.

Your family, friends, and loved ones are the people who show up for you day-in and day-out — even when you don’t realize you need it. And few of us would ever reach the type of achievements we celebrate today without such an amazing support group.

In the world of higher education, Commencement of course means graduation. And at most of the Commencements I’ve attended over the years — and there have been many — you hear people say things like:

  • “Your academic journey is complete.”
  • Or “Now that your time here is done…”
  • Or “Our university was grateful to have you.”

Don’t get me wrong: the sentiments behind those statements are true. But why do we spend so much time talking about this moment — this phenomenal, life-changing moment — as an ending?

The root of the word “Commencement” is “commence.” Which means the beginning of something. So how does a word that means “beginning” signify a graduation? Because that’s exactly what today is. Your graduation — this Commencement — is the beginning.

It’s the beginning of your future, with a degree that will open numerous doors as you start the next phase of your careers and life. And it’s the start of new possibilities and more opportunities, ones that are now afforded to you because of the knowledge and skills that you’ve gained and the experiences that have helped you grow.

As you embark on this new beginning, I want to tell you what I see as I stand here, looking at all of you. I see more than 2,200 new beginnings that all have a common link to this special place. That rich, multicultural, multi-generational experience is a defining aspect of a CU Denver education. One that we are literally painting on our campus. I’m sure most of you have seen the murals on our Student Commons and Learning Commons buildings, just behind you. If you haven’t yet seen them, I encourage you to walk one block that way and take a look.

And I know we’re all excited to hear from our commencement speaker, the fabulous Detour — and the artist behind these murals — in just a bit. Detour continues to connect with CU Denver, his alma mater, at different points in his life. He got his bachelor’s here, then came back for his master’s, and is now working with us.

What I love about these murals is that they exemplify the diversity and reach of our alumni. All doing amazing things, each in their own way and for their own communities. But it also brings their diverse impact back to its beginning. Which was here. In the classrooms, labs, and studios that you graduates sat in. On this Quad and in the Student Union behind me. On Larimer Square and throughout Denver, the city we call home.

Graduates, everything you have achieved throughout your education has strengthened this university and made it alive. Now, you will go on to further define who CU Denver is, what we do, and what we mean to the world by the impact you make. That story — which is your story — will forever be linked to this place. And regardless where today’s beginning takes you, we are committed to being there when you need us, as you need us.

Because here at CU Denver, we believe that a university shouldn’t just be there for you for a few years of your life, but for the entirety of it. We want to be here for you to provide an education that serves all stages of your life and career — for all of those beginnings you will continue to have. We call this new model of higher education the “University for Life” model. And that’s what CU Denver is committed to being: A University for Life. For your life, and for everyone’s life. From 17 years old to 117 years old.

So as you join over 110,000 CU Denver alumni who are shaping the social, economic, and political landscape of our world, remember that the difference you make begins today. And remember that there’s a wide-open invitation to continue your journey of life-long learning and community engagement with us. With CU Denver: A University for Life. I hope you come back at each new milestone and life stage as our “Lynx for Life.”

Congratulations again. We can’t wait to see how far you’ll go.

Remarks by:

Michelle Marks
CU Denver Chancellor