Academics and Research / Magazine Feature

DeGette challenges DU Class of 2009 to change the world

Gazing across the University of Denver’s Magness Arena at nearly 1,000 graduating seniors June 6, U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette offered her congratulations and a hefty challenge: Change the world.

“Your generation just may be the next great generation,” she said. “We need every one of you.”

DeGette, who represents Colorado’s First Congressional District, delivered the Commencement address in a packed arena, welcoming the Class of 2009 into what she called a “turning point in history.”

The world is undergoing massive change, she said. Nations must turn to outreach and leadership by example, corporate greed must be replaced with cooperation and service, and persuasion and common cause must replace military action, she said.

“We are not studying history. We are living it. Our actions today will determine the course of our future,” she said. “It matters how we conduct our lives and how we do business.”

In recognition for her service to the country, to Colorado and the district that includes DU, Chancellor Robert Coombe and the University awarded DeGette an honorary doctorate of public service. As Coombe commended her, the audience let out a few chuckles as he acknowledged DeGette received her bachelor’s degree from Colorado College, DU’s longtime hockey rival.

But DeGette noted that her mother received a theater degree from DU in 1956, and DeGette said that growing up in the University neighborhood, she took music lessons at DU during high school.

“I truly do consider DU to be my school,” DeGette said.

The University also honored longtime Board of Trustees member and first woman board chair Joy Burns with an honorary doctorate of higher education. Coombe cited Burns’ devotion and service to DU and to the Denver community as a whole. Burns has been active in the DU community since 1972. The Ritchie Center’s Joy Burns Arena and the Joy Burns Plaza in the Newman Center for the Performing Arts bear her name in recognition of her generous support. DU’s Franklin L. Burns School of Real Estate and Construction Management is named for her late husband.

Magness Arena – filled with parents, family and friends – was rowdy at times, as the audience cheered their graduates with applause and even the occasional air horn. As one student accepted her diploma and crossed the stage, she surprised Coombe by offering him a high five. Coombe met her hand as she raised it in celebration.

“This is a special day, a great day of celebration for you, our graduates,” Coombe said. “I hope you will take pride in what we have accomplished here. We are so very, very proud of you.”

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