For the first time in a year and a half, soon-to-graduate students, their family members and friends, gathered in the halls of the Chester Fritz Auditorium to attend UND’s summer commencement ceremony, on Friday, Aug. 6.
After the sounds of Pomp and Circumstance faded from the air, UND President Andrew Armacost presided over the ceremony. He welcomed 218 graduate students and 257 undergraduates, in receiving their diplomas, as well about 45 graduates who completed school during the pandemic, but returned to walk the stage.
Herald columnist Marilyn Hagerty received an honorary doctorate for her years of service to the community and support for UND at Friday’s ceremony, and UND athlete Hunter Pinke received a special commendation from Armacost.
It was the first in-person graduation event since December 2019.
Armacost exhorted attendees to clap and shout as they wished, even if the graduate crossing the stage was not a family member or friend. The notion of community was spoke about throughout the undertakings.
“This is about us being together as a community, to celebrate the tremendous accomplishments of all these young men and women before us,” Armacost said. “Congratulations to each of you.”
Armacost was preceded in his remarks by State Board of Higher Education member Danita Bye, who commended graduates on persevering through the challenges of the pandemic.
Cody Anderson and Ryan Knipping, both graduates with commercial aviation degrees, told the Herald they were pleased to walk across the stage. They said their time at UND went by quickly but they wouldn't have changed anything about those years. They will work for a time at UND as flight instructors, before seeking out commercial pilot opportunities.
Chelsea Christie, a social work graduate, attended other universities, but found her time at UND to be the most rewarding. She will continue at UND by pursuing a master's degree.
“I've gone to three colleges, and this is my favorite,” Christie said.
Former Grand Forks Herald Publisher Mike Jacobs gave the keynote address at the ceremony. In it, he told students to explore and seek opportunities. The nation is at a crisis point, Jacobs said, whether that crisis be political or climatological. But great opportunities are born in times of crisis, and Jacobs urged the graduates to seek out those moments.
Jacobs also introduced Marilyn Hagerty, shortly before Armacost bestowed upon her an honorary Doctorate of Letters. In 2014, Jacobs also received an honorary doctorate from UND.
In his speech, Jacobs said Hagerty has accomplished everything in Grand Forks there is to accomplish -- except for naming him “cheerful person of the week,” a reference to a segment of one of her popular weekly Herald columns.
“Try harder!” Hagerty said in reply.
Attendees rose in twos and threes before they were all standing and applauding, as Hagerty received a doctoral hood.
The graduates filed across the stage as their names were called, including the names of students studying at UND online. Some of those online students came to campus to attend the ceremony.
But one final special moment marked the ceremony. Armacost presented Pinke with the President’s Medal, as well as a diploma for a bachelor of science degree, which Pinke completed in May. Pinke suffered a severe spinal injury in a 2019 ski accident, and worked to complete extensive rehabilitation in Denver, Colo. Pinke was named the Herald’s Person of the Year in 2020.
Pinke said Armacost, shortly after becoming UND president, visited him in the hospital while he was recuperating from his injury. Armacost, he said, didn’t know who he was.
“But I was one of his now, I was a UND guy,” Pinke said, and offered his thanks for Armacost’s support.
Pinke said he will attend the University of Arizona next year, but though the colors he will wear will be different, he intends to show his UND pride.
“I will continue to take great pride in representing my hometown, this state, this region and most of all, this university,” said Pinke.