Jeannie Price craned her neck as the flood of 1,024 Southeast Missouri State University graduates took the floor of the Show Me Center. It was almost impossible to tell one from another at such a distance.
But suddenly, there he was, her husband in his silver cap and gown. It had taken six years for James Price to earn his associate of applied science degree in computer technology, and his wife, 12-year-old son and parents couldn't have beamed more happily.
"He worked all day and then went to school at night," Jeannie Price said, sighing with relief.
Saturday's commencement in Cape Girardeau marked a record number of graduates from Southeast, with students representing all 50 states and 50 foreign countries. Many of them, like James Price, were non-traditional students who attended at least some classes at satellite campuses in Sikeston and other cities.
Dr. Charles H. Roadman II, president and CEO of the American Health Care Association, gave the commencement speech. He recalled his own college graduation in 1967 and how the projections of that speaker, a 1931 graduate, had already come to fruition.
Roadman stressed the importance of developing a international view in order to take on the tremendous responsibility of making the world a better place. In order to lead from a position of passion and courage, he advised graduates to further their lifelong learning paths with a variety of reading, including works written by people with views different from graduates' own.
He advised graduates to always make the conscious decision that every day will be a good day. Skipping that processes allows others to alter our attitudes, he said.
Roadman was surgeon general of the Air Force from 1996 to 1999, when he joined the Health Care Association, a federation of 50 associations with about 12,000 nursing facilities, assisted-living residences and sub-acute care centers. He lives in Washington, D.C.
Walter Biri of Jackson, a rural mail carrier, listened appreciatively. He was attending his daughter Jennifer's graduation.
"I'm glad it's over," he said. "She knew what she was going to do and she did it."
Jennifer Biri received a bachelor's degree from the College of Health and Human services and already is working as an assistant victims advocate.
Carrie Rushing, who majored in marine biology, summed up her feelings about commencement: "I'm finally graduating. I put in four years of suffering. I already feel graduated."
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