‘Lead with love, and then success will follow,’ Gail Miller tells SUU graduates

CEDAR CITY — The graduates of Southern Utah University’s 122nd graduating class – or at least half of them – gathered for the first of the university’s two commencement exercises Friday morning.

Southern Utah University commencement exercises, Cedar City, Utah, April 30, 2021 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

Following the traditional procession across campus, the hourlong program took place inside the America First Event Center arena, which was filled to only about half capacity due to COVID-19 restrictions. 

The remaining graduates, grouped by their respective colleges, will be honored in similar fashion on Saturday, when Friday’s program will essentially be repeated. The conferring of diplomas and other award presentations were scheduled separately at the various college convocations held at locations across campus both days.

“Getting an education is a lot like climbing a mountain,” said noted philanthropist and business executive Gail Miller during her commencement speech, which had included recollections of growing up in downtown Salt Lake City and climbing nearby Ensign Peak as a young teenager.

“This journey that you’ve been on, that’s brought you to this point, has taken a great deal of time, effort and sacrifice,” Miller added. “I’m sure climbing your mountain has not always been easy, nor has it been for the faint of heart. Sometimes the path was clearly marked. Other times it was rough, craggy and undefined. Sometimes you have to stand at a crossroads and decide which way to go. Or maybe you have to stop and rest for a while before moving on.”

“Today, you are on top of that mountain,” Miller added. “You’ve reached your summit. Now, where do you go from here? Well, today, you begin to make history. So for right now, enjoy your 15 minutes, because this is not the end of your journey.”

Gail Miller speaks at Southern Utah University commencement exercises, Cedar City, Utah, April 30, 2021 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

Miller admonished the graduates to aspire to change the world for the better.

“There is nothing as constant as change,” she said. “And you can be the change that you want the world to see. You have important things to do. You’re at a pivotal time in history.”

Miller also spoke of the impact that the current pandemic has had on society.

“COVID has shown us new ways of doing things. It sheds new light on her challenges and exposed important changes. It’s unlikely that we will ever go back to the old pace, because our foundation has shifted and life in general has experienced a great upheaval.”

“Our country needs healing. Social ills need to be addressed in new ways, and we must continue to recover from the pandemic,” she said. “Every generation has had its challenges, but  yours will be the most impactful yet. Are you ready, willing and able to address what comes next?”

Miller likened the graduates to a butterfly emerging from a cocoon 

“Like the butterfly, you’re emerging from college transformed and equipped to be the change the world needs,” she said. “Just as butterflies can’t see their own wings, at this moment, you may not be able to see the impact that you’ll have on those around you or recognize your own beauty or your contributions.”

Southern Utah University commencement exercises, Cedar City, Utah, April 30, 2021 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

Miller also outlined several key aspects for the graduates to focus on, including be kind, be patient and forgiving, be inclusive, serve others, be civil, be grateful. She also admonished the graduates to not fixate on making money but to be innovative, flexible and creative.

“Winston Churchill said, ‘Difficulties mastered are opportunities won,’” Miller concluded. “I would like to encourage you to lead with love, and then success will follow. Remember, you cannot climb a mountain by sitting on the sidelines.”

Miller’s remarks came just moments after she was awarded an honorary doctorate of public service degree, presented by SUU President Scott L. Wyatt and members of the SUU board of trustees.

In addition to Miller, honorary doctorates of public service were also awarded to Carine Strom Clark and Garth Frehner.

Earlier, during his welcoming remarks, Wyatt had noted the Class of 2021 was SUU’s largest graduating class ever.

“We are thrilled to recognize 2,361 candidates for graduation, SUU’s largest number by far,” he said.

Friday’s student graduation address was delivered by Sipho Ncube, a biology major from South Africa, who outlined four key aspects whose initial letters from the acronym STEP, namely seize the moment, triumph, empowerment and prosper.

“Celebrate the milestones that are contributing to a better version of yourself,” she said while talking about triumph. “These milestones matter, regardless of how big or small they are.”

Southern Utah University President Scott L. Wyatt speaks during commencement exercises, Cedar City, Utah, April 30, 2021 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

Later, when she talked about prospering, she said, “That is the goal, the reason all of us are here today, looking our best in our graduation attire, all headed in different directions. Prosperity is like the cherry on top of everything. And what follows then, is greatness.”

Saturday’s student address will be delivered by Ajhamae Quiring, an exercise science major from Perry, Utah.

Wyatt also shared a few of the interesting demographic details about the Class of 2021:

  • The breakdown of degrees was as follows: 1,473 bachelor’s degrees, 596 master’s degrees, 276 associates degrees and 16 certificates.
  • The graduates hail from 36 countries, 40 different U.S. states and all 29 Utah counties.
  • The graduates range in age from 17 to 64, with 27 being the average.
  • A total of 1,314 women and 1,047 men comprise the graduating class, which includes 90 married couples.

Wyatt also took a few moments to recognize the class valedictorian, accounting major Karl Greathouse of Wasilla, Alaska

“We look forward to rejoicing in your successes and your contributions to humanity,” Wyatt told the audience during his closing remarks.

“I don’t actually remember being in the presence of so many masked men and women wearing capes … you are an absolute marvel,” he added jokingly.

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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