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Morgridge tells new grads, “life offers opportunity at every stage.”

More than 900 students received their DU undergrauate degrees at Commencement on June 4.

As family and friends looked on, and buoyed by the life lessons imparted by Commencement speaker John Morgridge, 962 University of Denver students received their undergraduate degrees at a June 4 ceremony held at DU’s Magness Arena.

Morgridge, chairman emeritus of Cisco Systems, also received an honorary doctorate in education as the ceremony began. His son, John, and daughter-in-law, Carrie, are major benefactors of DU’s Morgridge College of Education.

One student rushing to take his place in line for the walk into Magness Arena was Will Wyman, who received a bachelor’s degree in environmental science with a minor in business. He has a seasonal job for the summer as an assistant horticulturalist at the city parks department in his hometown of Oshkosh, Wis. And after that?

“I’ll work on that then,” he said as he dashed off to catch up with friends disappearing into the arena.

Saturday’s ceremony began with the Lamont Wind Ensemble leading the processional. As the candidates for graduation slowly filed in and the obligatory beach balls were batted about among those already seated, administration officials who rushed in to grab the orbs were met with a smattering of good-natured boos.

Among those waiting to watch and greet their soon-to-be graduates were Janet McLellan of San Francisco and her grown daughter Katie McLellan. They nabbed great seats directly opposite the stage to see daughter and younger sister Laura McLellan receive her bachelor’s degree in business administration.

“We’re so excited and so proud of her,” said Janet McLellan, holding a bouquet of flowers to hand her daughter after the ceremony. “DU has been just great for her.”

Katie said her sister already has a job lined up close to home in San Francisco: She starts in two weeks as an analyst at Hospitality Valuation Services.

The grads were seated and called to order by DU Board of Trustees Chair Trygve Myhren. Sarah Cambidge — a recipient of a bachelor’s degree from DU’s Lamont School of Music — sang the national anthem.

Undergraduate Student Body President Jim Francescon spoke briefly and drew plenty of chuckles from his classmates before announcing that the gift from the class of 2011 to the University would be a bronze archway for the campus.

University Chaplain Gary Brower gave the invocation, and Chancellor Robert Coombe welcomed graduates and visitors before introducing Morgridge.

Morgridge, who also teaches management at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, is a philanthropist, conservationist and champion of education initiatives. He holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin and an MBA from Stanford University.

His folksy, 15-minute address focused on what he described as “just some observations from my life’s turns, which I refer to with my MBA students at Stanford as ‘Rules for the Long Road.’”

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, hiring for new graduates is up 21 percent over last year.

He drew laughs from all generations in the crowd, especially when he urged: “As a special favor to your parents, marry early. Have children. Grandchildren are a wonderful gift that your parents get for caring for you.” He noted that his six grandchildren all will be starting college this fall.

Morgridge spoke more about some of his personal experience, noting that “I long had a goal of becoming president of a company. But it was not till I was 57 years old that I became president of Cisco Systems with its 34 employees. Life offers opportunity at every stage.”

He also touched on the political reality for today’s graduates, stating: “It is unfortunately true that our generation and that of your parents have left you with a big mess that will now be yours to clean up: wars, budget challenges, pollution, global warming, battles of health care, natural disasters. They’re all there for you. We’re willing those to you. Are you ready?”

He then challenged them to “bridge the gap” among a “politically divided” country, telling them, “Get involved and stay involved.”

Morgridge closed with a final observation:

“Stay hungry. Stay foolish. I’ve always wished that for myself. And now as you set out on your new phase of life, I wish that for you. Congratulations, and good luck.”

After Coombe gave closing remarks and everyone sang the alma mater, 962 new graduates rose to take their places in the world as their families rushed to greet them — and an incoming class of 1,000-plus waited just weeks away to take their place. Another cycle ends; a new one soon begins.

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