UAF Hosts 100th Launch and First In-Person Ceremony in Two Years | Education


Austin Laber took seven years to earn his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering. He started out living in a campus parking lot in his Toyota Corolla, then moved to a minivan. He pulled an electrical cord out of the van, showered on campus, and worked several student jobs.

On Saturday, Laber was the student speaker at a commencement ceremony at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks.

“I may not have to struggle financially for the rest of my life,” he told an audience of hundreds at the Carlson Center at the 100th commencement of the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the first in-person graduation ceremony in two years.

John Sexton Shanly was the first and only UAF graduate in 1923. Laber is one of more than 1,000 members of the UAF Class of 2022, who were recognized at separate ceremonies at 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. for reduce crowds due to Covid-19. Masking was optional.

University of Alaska President Pat Pitney also spoke, encouraging graduates to deploy to Alaska and become leaders.

“You are the key to our future,” she said. “Alaska is ready for you. Alaska needs you.

Laber graduates are debt free. The likelihood of never having to worry about food and shelter again has been very present lately, he told the crowd.

“I may never have to worry about having a roof over my head or food on my plate, and I’ve spent the last month trying to find the words to describe what it means to me and how grateful I am to the UAF and its staff for giving me this opportunity,” he said.

Laber’s message to his fellow graduates was essentially a warning to avoid stagnation. Quoting a line from the song “Eye of the Tiger”, Laber said, “Don’t trade your passion for glory.”

He also shared something he said he learned in life, which is to attract people who are “nothing short of spectacular” when times are tough and unpredictable.

Other members of the Class of 2022 recognized by UAF were Tricia Minnick, who won the 2019 Marion Frances Boswell Memorial Award honoring an outstanding bachelor’s candidate, according to UAF Public Affairs, and Logan Nave won the Joel Award. Wiegert honoring an outstanding associate degree candidate. .

UAF awarded three honorary degrees to Michael Williams Sr., Sarah James and Dermot Cole. Meritorious Service Awards were presented to University supporters Anna Atchison, Aaron Schutt, Susan Henrichs and Ann Tremarello.

Graduates of Science, Mathematics and Engineering had the first ceremony. The afternoon ceremony highlighted liberal arts, education and business graduates.

The graduates ranged in age from 18 to 75 and earned a range of degrees from professional honors to doctorates, according to UAF public affairs.


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