On a brisk, gray day in Boulder, University of Colorado winter commencement speaker Kristi Anseth charged graduates not to be afraid to take risks.

At the Coors Event Center on Friday morning, Anseth described Charles Blondin, who throughout the 1860s crossed Niagara Falls many times by tightrope.

During one performance, Blondin brought with him a wheelbarrow. He asked one member of the audience if he believed Blondin could successfully cross the falls with the wheelbarrow.

When the man answered, "Absolutely yes," Blondin invited the man to jump into the wheelbarrow for the ride.

"When the time comes, don't be afraid to jump into the wheelbarrow," Anseth, a professor in CU's chemical and biological engineering department, told the crowd.

CU conferred 1,899 degrees during Friday morning's ceremony. As temperatures outside hovered in the low 20s and clouds cast a gray shadow over Boulder, CU recognized 1,399 bachelor's degrees, 310 master's degrees, nine law degrees and 181 doctoral degrees.

During his address to the graduates, CU Chancellor Phil DiStefano commended the campus for its response and volunteer efforts after September's floods.

"This fall semester you really let your light shine," DiStefano said. "If last September's floods taught us one thing, it was this: If we come together and help each other, even in a disaster, we can make the community a stronger place."

For Patti Hale, watching her oldest daughter Niki Hale graduate was "surreal," she said.

"She's freaking out a little bit," Niki Hale said, grinning toward her mother.

"I have lots of tissues," Patti Hale said, laughing.

Niki Hale, who graduated with a degree in studio arts, said after graduation she'll put all of her energy toward finding a job, preferably in the Denver metro area.

The graduates, wearing black robes and black caps, sat in stark contrast to the gold seats and bleachers inside the basketball arena.

Zoe Smith plays with the tassel of her father Noel’s cap after the CU Winter Commencement on Friday at the Coors Event Center.
Zoe Smith plays with the tassel of her father Noel's cap after the CU Winter Commencement on Friday at the Coors Event Center. (Cliff Grassmick / Daily Camera)

The first priority of Lindsey Brown after the ceremony is catching up on all the sleep she's missed over the last few years of classes, exams and college life.

Brown, who graduated with a degree in environmental studies, said she hasn't yet decided what she'll do after that.

She's hoping to decide between private and public sector jobs.

"I'm just excited to graduate," she said.

The light snow that fell the morning of the ceremony was a refreshing change of scenery for graduate Morgan Auerbach, who flew back from Beverly Hills to receive her degree in studio arts.

Auerbach, who finished classes over the summer, said she's working in a boutique for now and keeping her career options open until "inspiration hits."

"It's nice that it's snowing a little bit today, to see some of the snow before I leave," she said.

Though many graduates said they felt the recent recession was far from over, Mark Filanc said he was optimistic about finding a job with his communications degree.

"It's a little tighter," Filanc said of the job market. "But I don't see it being that difficult."