"Pomp and Circumstance" and Celebration
Author: David Santen, Office of Marketing and Communications (503-725-8789)
Posted: June 11, 2005

Mercy Corps CEO Neal Keny-Guyer, speaking to approximately 1,800 graduates and 14,000 friends and family gathered for Portland State University’s spring commencement ceremonies this afternoon at the Rose Garden Arena, urged the new alums to go forth, viewing the world through a “humanitarian lens.”

“Graduates, I can tell you this: Never is your voice more needed than today. And never have there been more possibilities that your voice and your actions can truly matter, can truly make a difference, than today,” said Keny-Guyer who also received an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from PSU. “You may wonder if your actions matter, if you can make a difference. ’We must never doubt,’ as Margaret Meade reminds us, ‘that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.’”

The 1,800 grads participating in this spring’s ceremonies represented a portion of the 4,530 students earning degrees from PSU for the 2004–05 academic year—55 doctoral degrees (the previous high was 39 awarded in 1993), 1,500 master’s degrees and 2,975 bachelor’s degrees. This marked the tenth-consecutive year of growth in the University’s graduating class, the largest in Oregon.

“This is a time to celebrate your success and know that your time at PSU has prepared you for a life of civic engagement, a commitment to justice and equal opportunity, and a connection to your community,” said PSU President Daniel O. Bernstine, whose own son Justin graduated today with an MBA. “Portland State University is a place where high academic achievement, community service, and research make a difference for the community, the nation and the world. It is also a place where students of diverse backgrounds and life experiences develop common bonds, share the joy of acquiring new knowledge and skills, and realize their dreams.”

The crowd was also addressed by a pair of students selected for their involvement in the University community. Ibrahim Abdi, a native of Somalia, served as a member of the Association of African Students, the Black Cultural Affairs Board and the Multicultural Center Board en route to earning his B.A. in International Studies. Currently, he is in the process of applying for graduate school and plans to study public health and counseling.

“As I graduated from high school, my hopes and dreams of finishing my college education were very slim,” said Abdi. “I remember the first time that I applied for a student visa so I could get my education here. I was rejected not once, twice, or three times, but seven times. I finally got it on the eighth try. The man who stamped the visa on my passport asked me, ‘What will you do after you are done with college?’ I said to him, I want to be in a position to make a difference in my life first, so I could make a difference in someone else’s life. I told him that I want to have a positive impact on one life a day and commit myself to continue making a difference. Well, PSU made a difference in my life.”

Gainell Irving, who served as a peer mentor in the University Studies program and who received a B.A. in English, told her fellow graduates that today marked “the pinnacle of our success, the end result of an incredible final year in which we have navigated divisive and winding paths.” Irving plans to earn a second degree at PSU, in Philosophy, before applying to law school at Lewis & Clark College.

The 2005 graduating class joins 100,000 Portland State University alumni, including the 75,000 living in the Portland metro region. This year’s graduates represent 130 towns and cities in Oregon, 44 states and the District of Columbia throughout the U.S., and 43 countries from around the world. The youngest graduate is 18, and the oldest is 70. Women represent 59 percent of this year’s grads. The top undergraduate majors are Social Science, Psychology, Science, Speech Communications, and Arts and Letters.

Portland State University’s spring commencement was broadcast live on Oregon Public Broadcasting television, and hosted by Stephanie Stricklen, newscaster from KGW 8 (NBC) and Gwyneth Gamble Booth, chair of the PGE Foundation’s Board of Directors. Videotapes of the event are available through PSU’s Office of Commencement,, or by calling 503-725-4910.

A transcript of Neal Keny-Guyer’s remarks in Adobe PDF format can be downloaded here.

About Portland State University
Portland State University, Oregon's only urban university, is the largest and most diverse in the state system. The University's position in Oregon's economic and cultural center allows for deep community engagement and the creation of partnerships with hundreds of organizations throughout the region—partnerships that give PSU students valuable learning opportunities as they solve real-world problems of business and community. Portland State offers more than 100 undergraduate, master's and doctoral degrees, as well as graduate certificates and continuing education programs. PSU serves more students and confers more master's degrees annually than any other Oregon university.

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Source: PSU Office of Commencement (503-725-4910)

For Immediate Release (#05-091)