UA Commencement Returns to Arizona Stadium

May 3, 2013

For the first time in more than 40 years, graduating University of Arizona Wildcats will gather at Arizona Stadium to celebrate their transition from hardworking students to proud alumni.

The UA's spring undergraduate and master's commencement ceremony will take place at Arizona Stadium on Friday, May 10, at 7:30 p.m. The last time the event was held at the stadium was 1972. Organizers decided to move the event from McKale Memorial Center back to the football stadium this year to accommodate a growing crowd.

"We outgrew McKale and we wanted to make sure every graduate had the opportunity for their family and friends to see them graduate in person," said Kasey Urquidez, UA associate vice president for student affairs and enrollment management and dean of undergraduate admissions.

UA student enrollment topped 40,000 for the first time this year, and retention and graduation rates also are on the rise. In 2012, the one-year retention rate increased by 3 percent to 80.2 percent. The four-year graduation rate in 2011 was 39.9 percent, up from 36.3 percent in 2010, while the six-year rate was 61.4 percent, up from 59.8 percent.

On May 10, 5,728 undergraduate degrees, 908 master's degrees and four educational specialist degrees will be awarded. The University's 255 doctoral candidates will be honored at a separate ceremony at Centennial Hall on Saturday, May 11, at 11 a.m.

Urquidez said she expects Arizona Stadium to become the new home for commencement, adding that the celebration at the larger venue will include new features, such as food trucks in the student staging area and pre-show entertainment for guests, including a photo presentation of graduating students on the stadium's big screen.

"It will be a bigger production, and while it will be very respectful, it will also be fun and celebratory," Urquidez said.

The commencement speaker will be longtime UA supporter Robert F. Moran, chairman and CEO of PetSmart. Under Moran's leadership, PetSmart has made significant contributions to the UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and his support helped establish two endowed positions in the college: The PetSmart Distinguished Professorship, established in 2004, supports research in retail and consumer sciences; the PetSmart Endowed Professorship of Practice in Retailing and Consumer Sciences, established in 2008, recognizes and promotes excellence in undergraduate education, and has led to the creation of Career-Wise Cats: Companion Animal Track, a program that introduces UA students to careers in retailing.

Honorary Degrees

A number of individuals will be honored during the May 10 ceremony, including Moran, Raymond Spencer and Paul Lindsey.

Since 2009, Spencer has served as chairman of the South Australian Health and Medical Institute. For nearly 20 years, he served with the Institute of Cultural Affairs, a United Nations-recognized private organization focused on worldwide rural and community development.

Spencer's impact on the UA campus has been significant. He began the Raymond Spencer Program in Applied Ethics in 2008 with a gift to the then-School of Public Administration and Policy in the UA College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. The program has helped build the University's applied ethics curriculum, supporting teaching, research and the recruitment of national speakers to campus.

Spencer also spends time in the classroom, sharing his experiences through an Ethical Leadership course he co-created with UA senior lecturer Neil Vance. He also serves as a mentor and offers professional guidance and networking opportunities to UA students.

Lindsey began his career in Tucson's mental health field, becoming the founding board president and, eventually, executive director of C.O.P.E., a nonprofit organization specializing in community-based treatment of the chronically mentally ill.

Later, he became a commercial real estate broker and started Chapman Lindsey Commercial Real Estate Services. He then purchased Coldwell Banker Success Realty – growing the company from three branches and 200 agents to nine branches and 600 agents – plus a property management company and a title insurance agency. In 2006, he sold all three. Since then, he has invested in a number of small businesses throughout Arizona.

Lindsey's interest in civic engagement, education and youth service led him to establish the Paul Lindsey Internships at the UA College of Education. For several years, the internship program has provided stipends for undergraduate and graduate students to serve as interns at nonprofit and public service organizations – such as Boys and Girls Clubs, refugee relocation agencies and outdoor education programs. 

In partial retirement, Lindsey remains active in a number of public service organizations, including the UA College of Education Advisory Board and UA Eller College of Management National Advisory Board.

Alumni Achievement Award

Paula Van Ness, who earned a bachelor's degree in child development and family relations in 1974, is this year's Alumni Achievement Award winner. She now serves as president and CEO of the Connecticut Community Foundation.

Her career in nonprofit leadership spans nearly four decades and has included some of the best-known national charities. She is committed to community service, regularly volunteering her time and effort with national and local nonprofits – and to the UA.

Student Awards

Six students will be honored with achievement medals during the ceremony.

Robie Gold Medals will be awarded to Meardey Kong and Victor Arias. Kong will graduate Magna Cum Laude from the Honors College with a bachelor's degree in philosophy, politics, economics and law and a bachelor's degree in psychology. Arias will graduate with honors with a bachelor's degree in biochemistry and molecular and cellular biology, with a minor in mathematics.

Robert Logan Nugent Medals will be awarded to Garrett Voge and Devin Gregory. Voge will graduate with honors with a Bachelor of Science in accounting and a Bachelor of Science in management information systems. Gregory will graduate Magna Cum Laude from the School of Government and Public Policy with a Bachelor of Arts in political science.

Merril P. Freeman Medals will be awarded to Lexi Shinn and Jon Denton-Schneider. Shinn will graduate Magna Cum Laude with a degree in accounting and a minor in French. Denton-Schneider will graduate Summa Cum Laude with honors with a Bachelor of Science in entrepreneurship and business economics and a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish.

In addition to the University-wide ceremonies, individual colleges hold their own convocations, with information available on the commencement website.

Story credit: University Communications

Want to be a part of it all? Get schedules, maps and more at the Commencement 23013 website.