Commencement celebrates adventures at Iowa State

The word commencement means “beginning,” but at the spring commencement ceremonies on Friday and Saturday, 3,789 graduates completed their adventure at Iowa State University.

President Steven Leath opened his first Iowa State undergraduate commencement program on Saturday with a speech welcoming graduating seniors and their loved ones in addition to presenting honorary degrees.

George Belitsos received an honorary doctorate of humane letters degree for his leadership in founding Youth and Shelter Services and outstanding dedication to helping reduce children in poverty. Daniel Gianola from the University of Wisconsin received an honorary doctorate of science degree for his work in animal breeding.

“Thank you very, very much to Iowa State University for this,” said Gianola in his acceptance speech. “It is honorable to be awarded this recognition.”

Gianola received heavy applause after referring to Iowa State as, “the premier university of agricultural and life sciences in the United States and the world.”

The commencement address was performed by Chris Lang, the president of the State of Iowa Board of Regents and an Iowa State alumnus. Lang spoke in length about the importance of his education at Iowa State and finding his purpose in life.

“Because of your experiences at home and your education with Iowa State you can be anything you desire to be and what you become may be different than what you planned,” said Lang. “It took me nearly thirty years to realize the opportunities my education gave me. It took me another ten years to realize that I have a purpose in life that is strongly tied to where I was born and the Iowa State instruction I received.”

In his years at Iowa State, Lang described himself as not being a model student and confessed that he regrets missing his commencement ceremony.

“For each of you, I hope finding your purpose doesn’t take nearly so long. I can without hesitation tell you working to fulfill your niche in life brings unequal satisfaction and content,” Lang said. “Patience is a key characteristic to finding your niche, because life’s greatest experience is knowing those things leading up to your purpose will come from where you least expect.”

Lang suffers from muscular dystrophy, a disease in which the muscles lose strength over time, and attributes his health condition as a motivation to live more fully.

“Muscular dystrophy is not a weakness; to me it has become a turning point of opportunity. This disease has strengthened me to look at our world in a more accurate way, to help me focus on more important needs,” Lang said. “I am no longer satisfied with status quos.”

Throughout his speech, Lang compelled the graduating class of 2012 to view failures as learning experiences and strongly encourages the graduates to use their adventures at Iowa State outside of the classroom and in their future careers.

“At the heart and soul of all of us remains unchanged. Your ability to achieve your personal goals starts with you and the tools you receive here. As I look out at your class, I see proud parents and friends,” Lang said. “But most important to me, I see hope for tomorrow.”