Cheers, happy tears, and evident pride marked the two days of 2016 Winter Commencement celebrations Dec. 16-17 at Sleep Train Arena.
Nearly 3,800 students – including bachelor’s, master’s, credential, and doctorate in education candidates from the University’s seven academic colleges – walked across the stage in their graduation regalia. Many had mortarboards personalized with thoughtful messages or stylish bling.
This was Sacramento State’s largest graduating class for Winter Commencement since 2012, and it was the final class to hold ceremonies at the former home of the Sacramento Kings.
President Robert S. Nelsen personally congratulated each of the new graduates, who now join nearly 229,000 alumni who were “Made at Sac State.”
During his heartfelt address to the grads, Nelsen described Sacramento State as “a house ... where each and every student belongs, despite economic background, sexual identity, ethnicity, physical and cognitive abilities, or documented and/or legal status.”
“We are a Hornet family, all housed under one roof with the united objective of graduating students with the very best education possible,” he said. “Education and universities will be the main force behind our success as an economy and a nation. Your degrees are what dreams are made of.”
Nelsen singled out three new graduates who were able to redefine the possible while attending Sacramento State:
- Kaitlyn Sullins was a high school dropout who eventually earned her GED but never thought a college degree was attainable. Once at Sac State, she found a home at the Martin Luther King Jr. Center, where she became an MLK Scholar. She also joined the debate team. She landed a job with Intel as a marketing and communications specialist.
- Kymberly Ketchum was a 4.0 student at San Diego’s Vista High School, where she became the first female athlete to compete all four years in full-contact football and win a California Interscholastic Federation ring. But she also was a gang member and meth addict. The sociology major now celebrates 12 years of being drug-free. She plans to return to San Diego and open a transitional home and inpatient rehabilitation center.
- Bill Dimopoulos was 58 years old in 2012 when he enrolled in the College of Business Administration. Despite having a disability, he graduated with a degree in accounting in 2015 and, at Winter Commencement, graduated with a master's of business administration.
“So many great stories,” Nelsen said. “So many homes found at Sac State. So many dreams fulfilled. Sac State is truly changing the face and the heart of Sacramento.”
During each ceremony, Nelsen recognized the parents, grandparents, spouses, partners, and children of the graduates, and he thanked them for their sacrifice and support. He also acknowledged the students who were first in their family to graduate and all who have served in the military.
He twice thanked Sacramento State’s faculty for their commitment to and support of students.
Other highlights of Winter Commencement included an address by Sacramento’s new mayor, Darrell Steinberg, who spoke at the Dec. 16 ceremony for the College of Social Sciences and Interdisciplinary Studies.
He told the students that their fields of study will obligate them “to fix an often broken world.” He offered three lessons from his own experience as an economist and politician:
- “Fall in love with whatever vocation or avocation you choose.”
- “If you can’t fix all of the world’s social ills, pick something that allows you to fix your part of the world – a few things that really matter and that nobody else is working on.”
- “Be impatiently patient. Don’t accept (no) as an excuse for inaction.”
Another special moment occurred during the College of Business Administration’s Dec. 17 ceremony, when a group of Golden Grads celebrated the 50th anniversary of their own graduation from Sacramento State.
During each ceremony, Nelsen concluded his remarks in the same way: “This day is a proud day, a day that we will always remember. Today, graduates, thanks to the faculty, your family and friends, you truly are ‘Made at Sac State.’ ”
And then he asked the crowd to join him in the cheer, “Sac State is No. 1! Stingers Up!” – Dixie Reid