Differing paths brought them to this point and separate paths they will follow, but thousands of University of Colorado students shared one key thing in common Friday: they were among the 2,074 people awarded degrees at the school's winter commencement ceremony.
Jeff Lambert and Paige Block, who both earned a Bachelor of Arts degree, typified that shared connection.
Lambert, 23, earned his degree in environmental studies and is considering seeking a job with the U.S. Forest Service or pursuing his passion for music now that he has his degree.
Block, who was awarded a degree in sociology, said she plans to return home to San Francisco briefly before going on a self-financed trip to Europe. In April, she said she plans to move to New York City and pursue a career in advertising or marketing.
When asked if they had any parting words for CU, both separately replied, "Go Buffs!"
The commencement ceremony got underway at 9:30 a.m. Friday at the Coors Event Center, but students began meeting with friends and taking pictures with family well before then. Sporting black robes and broad smiles, roommates Kelley Hestmark, 23, Genevieve Schutzius, 22, and Megan Kelly, 22, decided to add a little flair to their graduation outfits Friday by wearing wigs under their caps.
"I figure you only graduate college once, you might as well do it in an Afro... or a mullet," said Hestmark, who wore a black wig, while her roommates wore mullet wigs.
When asked what her favorite part of the college experience was, Hestmark quickly motioned to the two women beside her.
While the ceremony was a largely joyful event, the ceremony was marked by one somber moment. CU Dean of Libraries James Williams requested that graduates, faculty and audience members observe a moment of silence to honor the 26 victims of the Dec. 14 school shooting in Newtown, Conn. Following the moment of silence, tenor Jeong-Kwon Kim, who on Friday received a doctor of musical arts degree for vocal performance, sang the national anthem and "America the Beautiful."
Chancellor Phillip DiStafano's welcome speech and professor Patrick Mason's commencement address seemed to share a common theme Friday, that compassion and compromise are values the graduates should pay special attention to as they move on with their lives.
"As a nation, we have watched repeated stalemates in Washington, D.C. We have just come off one of the most contentious elections in our history. We are facing a looming fiscal cliff. A national debate on the Second Amendment is building," DiStefano said. "We have witnessed the inability of our nation's leaders to find compromise. It is clear the world needs you to take what you have learned at CU to create civil discourse in a fractious time."
Mason, a professor of voice in CU's College of Music and an award-winning baritone, is the 2012 recipient of CU's Hazel Barnes Prize. The prize, bestowed on Mason in May, is the highest faculty recognition for teaching and research awarded by CU.
The central theme of Mason's address was comity, or as he defined it, "mutual civility and courtesy."
"When we generously give ourselves to a common goal, the comity or mutual civility that we engage in repays our efforts with something far greater than the sum of our individual investments," he said. "We find our selves under the spell of ...beauty. Beauty that knows the best of us and releases the best in us."
Following the ceremony, many graduates lingered to talk with friends, take pictures with proud family members and otherwise bask in their achievements.
One graduate who made her parents particularly proud was 21-year-old Corrie Frank, who earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in studio art and art history. The Broomfield native was recognized on stage Friday for earning straight A's throughout her undergraduate career and was given a medal signifying she graduated with distinction.
She said she is considering whether to continue studying art as a graduate student, or working to get some of her original works featured in local galleries now that she has earned her bachelor's degree.
Frank's mother, Peggy Frank, father, Phil Frank and aunt, Barbara Allen, cheered her on at Friday's ceremony.
"We're just so proud of her. Her amazing focus, her work ethic and dedication and her kindness to everyone she meets," Phil Frank said. "She's a model student and a model daughter."
Contact Camera Staff Writer Joe Rubino at 303-473-1328 or firstname.lastname@example.org.