Singing “The Eyes of Texas” and holding their horns up high, more than 8,000 Longhorns stood beneath the glowing Tower this weekend, watching the bursting technicolor fireworks that signaled the end of their time at UT through misty eyes.
The 130th Spring Commencement of The University of Texas at Austin was a bittersweet moment for the 8,358 students receiving their bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees.
Following two days of individual recognition by UT’s colleges and schools, the University-wide ceremony—held in the Main Mall on Saturday evening—marked the end of one journey, and the beginning of another.
Proud family members and friends weren’t deterred by new security measures put into place for this year’s event. UT officials estimate around 25,000 showed up to help celebrate the Class of 2013 and hear the keynote speech by former Longhorn Sanya Richards-Ross, ’02.
Once a member of UT’s track team, Richards-Ross is now an Olympic gold medal-winning runner and a proud Texas Ex. In her speech, she detailed her long, and often bumpy, road to success, and encouraged the graduating class to persevere—something that, she believes, shouldn’t be too difficult for UT grads.
“In our weight room it says, ‘The winning tradition of the Texas Longhorns will not be entrusted to the weak or timid,'” Richards-Ross said to the crowd. “I would dare say that isn’t just a slogan used to motivate athletes—it’s a slogan that truly represents the spirit of all Longhorns.”
And it’s that Longhorn spirit that truly threads the Class of 2013 together. When he took to the podium, President Bill Powers explained that this year’s graduates came from 66 countries, 48 states, and 158 Texas counties, and each had a very different path that led him or her to the Forty Acres.
Legendary Longhorn quarterback Vince Young’s path led him to UT—twice. After leaving the University to join the NFL in 2006, Young returned to campus this semester and took 19 hours in order to graduate. And, on his 30th birthday, he did—an accomplishment he told CBS Sports topped even winning a national championship.
As the fireworks popped and the number ’13’ glowed on the Tower above, Young and his fellow Longhorns stood, horns in the air, and officially made the transition from students to Texas Exes.
Earlier in the day, more than 3,900 students, family members, and friends flocked to the Etter-Harbin Alumni Center to enjoy champagne toasts and appearances by Bevo, Hook ‘Em, and Smokey the Cannon at The Great Texas Exit. And enjoy they did: 800 bottles of champagne, 1,300 cupcakes, and 3,500 cookies were consumed during the weekend’s festivities.
See photos and tweets from UT’s 130th Spring Commencement weekend in the Storify below! Can’t see the Storify? Click here.
Photos by Marsha Miller.