More than 5,000 students claimed a new title Monday: University of Oregon graduate.
Commencement ceremonies and the conferring of degrees capped off the 2015-16 academic year. Students clad in green caps and gowns, joined by professors and administrators in academic regalia, gathered in front of the EMU on a cool cloudy morning, then made their way down East 13th Avenue to Matthew Knight Arena in the traditional Grad Parade.
Inside the arena, graduates heard from keynote speaker Kent Alterman, president of Comedy Central. Alterman graduated with a bachelor of fine arts degree in 1980 after studying photography and design in the School of Architecture and Allied Arts.
Alterman is responsible for the leadership, strategy and management of the “No. 1 brand in comedy.” He oversees the development and production of all original Comedy Central content and has launched an ambitious slate of new series over the past six years with some of the most significant voices in comedy today.
He encouraged the graduates to embrace risk and uncertainty as they embark on their post-collegiate lives, quoting one of his UO professor: "Perhaps the biggest risk in life is to not take risks."
"Every time I've made a choice to take a risk, rather than security, my life has improved because of it," he said.
Student speaker Alysia Kezerian, a business administration major from Danville, California, said her life has changed in ways she couldn't have imagined when she walked onto campus four years ago. A leader of her sorority and a student ambassador for the university, Kezerian suffered a serious accident while hiking at Smith Rock State Park last August that left her in a wheelchair.
"Almost every night I dream I can walk again," she said. When she awakes, she harnesses "that little spark of internal motivation," she said, just as her fellow members of the Class of 2016 have done on their way to earning degrees.
"Sitting here proves you have been and can be your own inspiration," she said.
"I left my heart in Oregon," she said. "Ducks will always be my family."
UO President Michael Schill told the graduates to be life-long learners.
"Keep asking questions," he said. "Keep expanding your world view."
And, he said, defy expectations others may have of you.
"Break the mold," he said. "Write your own story."
After the main ceremony, more than 45 school, college and department ceremonies took place around campus.
A total of 4,192 bachelor’s degrees, 688 master’s degrees, 86 doctoral degrees, 121 law degrees and 46 certificates were conferred to 5,067 men and women.
The Class of 2016 was notable for being the most diverse, with the most students of Hispanic descent and members of ethnic minorities earning degrees. In addition, the class has 615 students from 65 nations, the most ever.
Resident Oregonians account for nearly half of the graduates. All told, 48 states, 65 countries and two territories were represented in the Class of 2016.
For more details on the class, see "A number of things about the UO Class of 2016."
To watch the entire commencement ceremony, visit the UO Channel.