NU grads walk at Petco Park

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NU grads walk at Petco Park

NU graduates fill the stands at Petco Park. Photo by Michele Leivas.

NU graduates fill the stands at Petco Park. Photo by Michele Leivas.

NU graduates fill the stands at Petco Park. Photo by Michele Leivas.

NU graduates fill the stands at Petco Park. Photo by Michele Leivas.

Michele Leivas, Editor

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June gloom was in full effect Saturday morning, but the low clouds and cold breeze did nothing to dampen the atmosphere within Petco Park in downtown San Diego.

For the first time ever, the home of the San Diego Padres was home to the National University commencement ceremony. More than 2,300 graduates and their loved ones filled the stands, waiting anxiously for their names to be called to cross the stage in the milestone moment. In total, more than 3,500 NU students completed their programs and received their degrees, though not all were able to attend the ceremony.

In his commencement speech, President David Andrews congratulated the graduates and those who had supported and encouraged them throughout their college career, noting that it was “a day of firsts” for so many in attendance, from the first generation college graduates to those receiving their first master’s degree. Andrews was celebrating a first that day as well: his first commencement ceremony as president of National University.

“We are so very proud of you and you should be very proud of yourselves,” Andrews said. “You persevered. You persisted. And you prevailed.”

Andrews continued, addressing the graduates: “You have joined the ranks today of very well-educated men and women. It is time for you to reap the benefits of your degree, paying it forward for the greater.”

The keynote speaker was New York Times best-selling author and decorated Army veteran Wes Moore, who advised graduates, “The question that will be asked and you will be asked over and over and over again and you will be asked to account for is ‘Who did you choose to fight for?’”

Moore urged graduates to remember to always fight for “the others”: those people whose voices weren’t always heard, but deserved to heard just as much as everyone else’s.

Newly-minted NU alumna Vanessa Drake paused between snapping commemorative photos with family to share her pride – and relief – of graduating with a master’s degree from the School of Letters and Sciences.

“It feels awesome,” she said. “I can’t wait to finally use my degree.”

Drake noted the biggest challenge for her was balancing grad school with her personal life, but offered this advice to students still in school: “Do something to keep you motivated. I made a motivational box and put in … pictures of trips I want to take [and photos] of friends and family who motivated me. So every time I got stressed out, I’d go into my motivational box and pull something out.”

Arlene Ringor, who graduated with a master’s degree from the Sanford College of Education, said, “I’ve got a lot of loans to look forward to, but it’s nice [to be finished].”