A sea of crimson gowns covered the newly renovated Nicholson Pavilion at the 2019 Central Washington University morning commencement ceremony Saturday, where around 800 students received the document they spent the last four-plus years working toward.

CWU president Jim Gaudino welcomed the packed crowd, both in the stands and behind the students on the field. He told the students how their hard work, diligence and perseverance had paid off, and how proud he was of each and everyone of them.

“You demonstrate odds mean nothing in the face of talent, self confidence and hard work,” Gaudino said.

A theme throughout the ceremony was recognizing those who helped along the way, with the students standing and giving an ovation to the parents, teachers and other relatives who had helped them along the way.

“Central is blessed with exceptional students,” Gaudino said. “I’m inspired by your stories, by your efforts and I wish we had time to tell each of your stories.”

Libby Akin gave the student commencement address. Akin was receiving her degree in theater arts. She said her journey through CWU took wild and unexpected turns, from producing theater to directing campus activities, and said the community challenged her and supported her every step of the way.

“For that I’m so grateful,” she said.

She also shared a numbered list of things she hoped her fellow classmates would remember after walking across the stage.

“You’re far more capable than you know,” Akin said. “Sometimes you need to jump and trust you catch yourself.”

Commencement address

Seattle Center Director Robert Nellams delivered the commencement address. Nellams is a Central alum himself, and went on to work as an accountant for the city of Seattle for several years, eventually ending up in his current position.

Nellams emphasized the importance of developing a relationship with mentors, his being one of this accounting professors at CWU who was tough, but fair. He also said everyone should take a hard look at the direction of their life every once in a while, to make sure they are on a path that makes them happy.

After 14 years as an accountant, Nellams was about to get his CPA, but ended up not filling out the paperwork at the last minute.

“I knew if I became a CPA, I would have been that for the rest of my life,” Nellams said. “Deep inside I knew, so be willing to listen to yourself and change course if you’re not happy and satisfied with what you’re doing.”

Nellams also had a numbered list, which included advice like know who you are, create an environment based on your values, challenge the norm, be transparent and learn to listen.

“How would you like to be remembered, by accomplishments or character?” Nellams said, closing out his address with a Mya Angelou quote. “People will forget what you said and what you did, but never forget how you made them feel.”

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