President Bruce Benson's newsletter

June 2015

Dear Alumni and Friends,

We hosted commencement ceremonies recently at CU's four campuses. It's safe to say it's the best part of the year at our university. Graduation is a time for students and families to celebrate a significant milestone and also an opportunity for those of us who work at the university to remember why we're here.

Mostly this time of year provides us a reminder of the caliber and quality of CU students.

I've attended 54 CU commencements since becoming president, and another 30 or so at CU and other institutions as a parent, friend, board member or recipient of honors at the ceremony. I never tire of the energy and optimism that pervade graduation ceremonies. It was even evident despite the monsoon-like rains that blanketed Colorado late this spring, particularly on the Boulder campus, where a downpour led to an abbreviated ceremony.

I always enjoy hearing the stories from our graduates. They are as varied as the thousands of degrees we confer, but also have common threads that speak to the quality, determination and accomplishments of CU students.

At commencement at our Colorado Springs campus, we learned about 17-year-old Jacob Reichard, who earned his bachelor of innovation degree in computer security before earning his high school diploma or getting his driver's license. He started college when he was 13 and through determination, intelligence and creativity – as well as no small amount of juggling skills – Jacob not only earned the degree from the College of Engineering, but he did so with honors.

At the ceremony at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus, Ethan Rosenberg earned his medical degree from the school where his parents have taught for 22 years. His family doctor when he was growing up was one of his mentors, as were several family friends who teach in the School of Medicine.

Emily Townsend-Cobb earned her doctorate in physical therapy despite being legally blind. She has had Leber's Congenital Amaurosis, a condition she says has led to "Swiss-cheese vision," since she was 3. Yet it didn't stop her from successful internships at the VA Medical Center in Denver and at clinics near her home in Florida. Emily demonstrated through those internships that the observation that is an integral part of the physical therapy profession comes in a variety of ways.

At CU Denver, Irvin Caldera Munoz received his degree in business administration with honors, carrying a 3.9 grade-point-average. He did so while working his way through school with a steady job at the university's Risk Management and Insurance Program. He also found time to volunteer at a local food and clothing bank. He started his college career at Community College of Denver before transferring to CU, and finished college in four years. Raised by a single mother, he became the first in his family to earn a college degree. His mother had warned him before the ceremony she wouldn't be able to control her tears when he was handed his diploma, but who could blame her? Irvin has already landed a job at Anadarko Petroleum.

On the Boulder campus, Derek Miles became the fifth-generation of his family to earn a degree from CU. He studied journalism and philosophy. His great-great-great aunt Lucinda Garbarino was the first in the family to do so, getting her degree in 1901. She went on to teach classics at the university for 40 years. The family estimates that about 50 members of the extended Miles family have attended CU in the past 115 years.

Courtnie Paschall, the outstanding graduate of the College of Arts and Sciences, had already earned a degree in physics (with a minor in Mandarin Chinese) from the U.S. Naval Academy and completed extensive flight training before downsizing in the Navy derailed her dream of being a pilot. Undeterred, she followed her father's advice and came to CU-Boulder, where she earned a degree in neuroscience with a minor in electrical engineering. She graduated summa cum laude and intends to continue her study of the brain and the possible relationship between marijuana use and schizophrenia. She completed her honors thesis in nine months, about half the time it normally takes.

These are just a sampling of the thousands of fascinating stories that emerge from CU commencement ceremonies. Graduation is a good time for graduates to pause on life's journey to celebrate an important milestone and to reflect on how they got to where they are. Then they can focus on a future full of promise and opportunity.

It gives me a great feeling of satisfaction to shake our graduates' hands as I present them with their diplomas. I have a good idea of the hard work and perseverance it took for them to get to that point. Education is one of the most enduring assets in our lives. I'm proud of the quality education that CU provides and equally proud of what our graduates will accomplish when they leave here with diploma in hand.

For feedback, contact


Bruce Benson


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  • February,Leading leaders


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