Newly minted Colorado Mesa University graduates first class

Susan Sadler gives a happy thumbs-up to the audience after getting her diploma during Colorado Mesa University’s first graduation Friday at Brownson Arena. Sadler graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor of science in nursing. CMU bestowed degrees or technical certificates on 146 students during the ceremony.

Friday was a day of firsts in local graduation history.

It was the first time Colorado Mesa University graduated a class under its new name. It was the first time the school hosted a commencement ceremony in December. And it likely was the first time a performance of “Deck the Halls” was part of the graduation program.

One-hundred-forty-six students participated in Friday morning’s commencement ceremony in Brownson Arena. About 250 students were eligible for winter commencement after completing course work for their degrees this summer or at the end of fall semester.

Graduate Liz Worstell got her bachelor’s degree in psychology and counseling Friday.

“I loved how small and quick it was and how we got to be the first ones to graduate in December,” Worstell said of the ceremony, which lasted a little more than an hour.

Sports-management graduate Quinn Cooper said she is glad the school added a December graduation this year. She said she would not have returned to the school for a May commencement.

“Getting done half a year early and coming back doesn’t make sense,” she said.

The ceremony included a speech from Ryan Hendershot, a December graduate and former student body president and student trustee, plus a speech from Board of Trustees Chairman Doug Price, president and chief executive officer of Rocky Mountain PBS in Denver.

After six years seeing the world in the U.S. Navy, Hendershot said he came to Colorado Mesa for a new adventure.

“As we enter the world as Maverick alumni, we’ll work to lead the herd in whatever we do,” he said.

Price said Friday’s graduates have some of the best stories to tell of any graduates in the state, and they should be proud of that. While Harvard graduates may only have the tale of the day they got accepted to an Ivy League school, Friday’s Colorado Mesa graduates have stories like going back to school after a 20-year absence, becoming a nurse after a cancer diagnosis, or coming to the U.S. in middle school.

Price himself lived in a car with a roommate for a year while struggling to pay for college as a first-generation student at the University of Colorado, he said.

“Colorado Mesa University transforms lives,” Price said. “When you think about who has the best story to tell, why not us?”


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