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Northwest Missouri State University


News Release

Dr. Jon Hagler, Missouri’s director of agriculture, delivers the winter commencement address. Northwest conferred 459 degrees during its winter commencement ceremony.

Dr. Jon Hagler, Missouri’s director of agriculture, delivers the winter commencement address. Northwest conferred 459 degrees during its winter commencement ceremony. (Photos by Darren Whitley/University Relations)

Dec. 14, 2012

Northwest awards 459 degrees during winter commencement

Above, the family of Tomarken Smith accepts a posthumous degree on his behalf during Northwest's winter commencment ceremony. Below, Sherry Wray, who has battled cancer while pursuing her education at Northwest, accepts her degree.

Above, the family of Tomarken Smith accepts a posthumous degree on his behalf during Northwest's winter commencment ceremony. Below, Sherry Wray, who has battled cancer while pursuing her education at Northwest, accepts her degree.

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Northwest Missouri State University awarded 459 students with their academic degrees during its winter commencement ceremony today. The total was the second highest for a winter commencement ceremony in the school’s history.

The University awarded 355 bachelor’s degrees, 98 master’s degrees and six specialists in education degree candidates. The top three undergraduate majors in the graduating class were elementary education, business management and agricultural business, and the top graduate degree was applied computer science.

The graduating class was comprised of 275 female graduates and 184 males, ranging in age from 20 to 56 years old. The class included 288 Missouri residents, and the graduates represented five different countries, including the Bahamas, India, Nepal and China.

Recalling their accomplishments at Northwest, University President Dr. John Jasinski praised the graduates for their courage, persistence and successes. He encouraged the graduates to contribute to the communities they go on to serve.

“Your diploma is testament to your decision to live and work as an educated person, shows that you are willing to set and achieve high and worthy goals and provides a springboard in which to be engaged in citizenship and civic duties,” Jasinski said.  

Dr. Jon Hagler, Missouri’s director of agriculture, delivered the afternoon’s commencement address and encouraged the graduates to “take time to live,” “find courage to love” more than themselves and laugh – especially at themselves.

“If you have a passion for something, if you have a drive to do something bigger than yourself than by all means capitalize on it,” Hagler said. “Let that passion shine through. Show that there’s something greater than yourself. Show that there’s a cause that makes your life worth getting up for in the morning, and I assure you that your life will be better lived.”

He also encouraged the graduates to keep learning.

“Your education gives you something very special,” Hagler said. “It gives you the foundation and the confidence to have a discerning mind, to go into any decision making with an open mind, the ability to make informed decisions. … Life rarely comes at you in black or white, love and hate, good and evil. It generally happens in those countless shades of gray. Northwest has given you the tools to sort through those gradients of life.”

During the ceremony, the University awarded a posthumous degree to the family of Tomarken Smith, a senior corporate recreation and wellness major who was killed Sept. 14. The crowd gathered in Bearcat Arena responded with a standing ovation as the family accepted the degree. Northwest also honored Smith’s memory this morning during a bell ringing ceremony attended by his family, students, faculty, staff and community members.

The crowd also rose to its feet while applauding Sherry Wray, who crossed the stage to receive her bachelor of science degree in therapeutic recreation. Wray began her college career at Northwest in the fall of 1980, but eventually put her college education on hold to work and raise a son. She returned to classes in the spring of 2002, but in 2003 she was diagnosed with breast cancer. The disease has since spread to several areas of her body and she continues to battle it.

Additionally, for the first time, Northwest recognized its graduating military veterans with honor cords of intertwined red, white and blue satin to signify their service. Graduates Cody Alexander, Brian Hunter and Dale Sharp wore the cords in recognition of their service and academic accomplishments as did graduate Bryce Webb, whom Northwest honored during a special commencement ceremony last week one day prior his deployment to Afghanistan. Many of you gathered for a special commencement ceremony in his honor last Wednesday.

Founded in 1905, Northwest Missouri State University is a comprehensive university that offers 140 undergraduate degree programs, 36 master degrees programs, and one doctorate program in cooperation with the University of Missouri-Columbia. Northwest is a vibrant, residential campus with an enrollment of more than 6,800 students, representing 46 states and 29 countries.


For more information, please contact:

Mark Hornickel, Media Relations Specialist
mhorn@nwmissouri.edu | 660.562.1704 | Fax: 660.562.1900

Northwest Missouri State University
215 Administration Building | 800 University Drive | Maryville, MO 64468