Jubilant degree candidates practically danced into Golden 1 Center, holding cell phones aloft to record the moment, and eagerly searching the stands for their loved ones, who responded with a symphony of happy shrieks.

Sacramento State students numbering 5,144 crossed the Golden 1 Center stage during Spring 2018 Commencement on May 18-19, accepting cheers from family and friends and handshakes from University President Robert S. Nelsen. A record 6,600 students – including graduates, pending summer graduates, and credential candidates – were eligible to make that walk.

“Today, graduates, thanks to the faculty, your family and friends, you truly are Made at Sac State,” Nelsen said.

Sac State's 2018 Spring Commencement was a time for exhuberance with thousands of graduates looking ahead to what might fill and define their lives as the move on. (Sacramento State/Jessica Vernone) | Photo gallery

Nelsen presided over five ceremonies across the two days. The colleges of Education (COE) and Natural Sciences & Mathematics (NSM) had a combined ceremony, as did Business Administration (CBA) and Engineering & Computer Science (ECS).

The College of Health & Human Services (HHS) boasted the largest number of graduates, with 1,417, followed by the College of Social Sciences & Interdisciplinary Studies (SSIS), with 1,267.

“We are a united, inclusive Hornet Family,” Nelsen said, “and the degrees you receive today are the completion of your, your family’s, and your partner’s dreams. Yes, I know there was a lot of stress, a lot of sleepless nights, for many, hungry nights, and for some, homeless nights. But the fire burned inside you, and today you taste the sweet taste of success.”

During his remarks, Nelsen noted the “unsung heroes” in the crowd, asking that parents, grandparents, husbands, wives, partners, children, and Sacramento State faculty stand and be recognized for their contributions to the graduates’ success. He also expressed his appreciation for the military veterans, and he cheered for the dozens of new graduates who are the first in their families to earn a college degree.

“You will make Sacramento even stronger and greater,” Nelsen said.

Following the practice he established as Sac State president, a beaming Nelsen shook hands with graduates after their names were called and they crossed the stage.

In addition to celebrating the graduates, Sac State also singled out individuals whose lifetime accomplishments have made an impact on the University and its students. Nelsen presented special degrees to:

  • Alice A. Huffman, Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. Huffman has served as president of California NAACP since 1999 and is a former California State University (CSU) trustee who champions underrepresented youth in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) disciplines.
  • Ruth M. Rippon, Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts. The renowned ceramic artist taught at Sacramento State for 31 years, beginning in 1956, and throughout her career, she helped to elevate the craft of ceramics into fine art. The Crocker Art Museum honored her last fall with an exhibit of 90 works to celebrate her 90th birthday.
  • Ernest E. Tschannen, Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. The Swiss immigrant and self-made millionaire amassed his fortune by investing in real estate. He donated $9 million to Sacramento State’s Science Complex, which will bear his name when it opens in Fall 2019. His was the largest single gift in Sacramento State’s 71-year history. Tschannen also gave $750,000 to the University’s “Power of 1,000 Hornets” campaign to build a campus events center.

In addition, Nelsen presented the President’s Medal for Distinguished Service to Sue McGinty, retired faculty member who guided Sac State’s Physical Therapy program through demanding accreditation changes. The University’s Doctorate of Physical Therapy (DPT) students consistently boast a 100 percent passing rate on the national licensure exam and score well above the national average.

Nelsen also recognized the seven students chosen by their respective deans as best exemplifying their college. The Deans’ Award recipients are:

  • Melissa Erin Brausch, Theatre and Dance, College of Arts & Letters
  • Kendell Craycraft, CBA
  • Margarita Kovalchuk, Civil Engineering, ECS
  • Akiela Patrice Moses, American Sign Language and Deaf Studies, COE
  • Rafael Ceja Ayala, Mathematics and Statistics, NSM
  • Elena Lizeth Galvez, Department of Kinesiology and Health Science, HHS
  • Eli Bassett, Government, SSIS

“Sac State is truly changing the face and the heart of Sacramento and California,” Nelsen said. – Dixie Reid