#IMATXEX: New Grads are Born at 131st Spring Commencement

#IMATXEX: New Grads are Born at 131st Spring Commencement

Four (or more) years ago, UT’s Class of 2014 gathered at the base of the Tower to learn the history and traditions of the University of Texas at Austin, their new home-away-from-home, at the annual Gone to Texas welcome rally. Saturday night, more than 8,600 of them came full circle at UT’s 131st Spring Commencement, an event full of celebration, wise words, and horns held high.

After enjoying free beer and BBQ at the Texas Exes’ Great Texas Exit event, the 8,686 bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree candidates filed into the Main Mall to see the culmination of their hard work, approximately 25,000 beaming family members and friends looking on. That’s a far cry from UT’s first Commencement ceremony in 1884, 130 years ago: according to President Powers, the university conferred a whopping 13 degrees that year.

“The University of Texas is now your alma mater,” Powers told the buzzing crowd in his remarks. “You will always be welcome; The Eyes of Texas will always be upon you.”

True to the ‘What starts here changes the world’ motto, the members of this year’s graduating class all had very diverse roads that led them to the Forty Acres. The 2014 grads hailed from 158 Texas counties, 48 states, and 71 foreign countries. And their stories of triumph are equally unique: The Class of 2014 includes meningitis survivor and advocate Jamie Schanbaum, as well as Kylie Doniak, a UT soccer player who was critically injured in a DWI hit-and-run in 2012.

Amid “Texas! Fight!” cheers that arose from various colleges and schools and graduates who were ecstatically mugging for the live-stream  cameras, Texas Exes president Charles Matthews, BA ’67, Life Member, Distinguished Alumnus, took to the mic to welcome the new grads to the Texas Exes family.

“No matter what plans you have, it is vital to stay connected with the university,” Matthews encouraged. “You must stay informed to preserve the value of your degrees. The future of the university depends on you and the collective might of our alumni.”

McRavenThen the main act took the stage. Keynote speaker Admiral William McRaven, BJ ’77, Distinguished Alumnus, equally charmed and awed the crowd with a list of the life lessons he’s gleaned from his time serving in and leading the U.S. Special Forces. (Read his wise words in their entirety here.) Among his tips for success: Find people to help you paddle your boat, don’t back down from sharks, and—wait for it—start every day by making your bed.

“If you can’t do the little things right, you will never be able to do the big things right,” McRaven said. “So if you want to change the world, start by making your bed.”

Later, the Class of 2014 stood proudly and sang “The Eyes of Texas” collectively, their last time to do so as students on the Forty Acres. And, as the Tower was illuminated by a backdrop of bursting, technicolor fireworks, a new class of Texas Exes was born.

Below, see a sampling of the social media outpouring by grads, family members, and friends throughout the weekend’s festivities.

Photos by Marsha Miller.


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