Alumni, officials congratulate Class of 2020 at virtual commencement ceremony

Colorado’s elected officials and alumni from coast to coast congratulated the Class of 2020 – virtually, of course – at the May 15 virtual spring commencement ceremonies.

Woven throughout the hour-long main commencement ceremony, fifteen UCCS alumni and two elected officials passed on wisdom and sent heartfelt congratulations to more than 1,500 UCCS graduates.

John and Janet Suthers ’73, mayor and first lady of Colorado Springs, opened the ceremonies with hopes for the graduates’ futures.

“As a proud UCCS graduate, I’m honored to be one of the countless people in our community cheering you on,” first lady Janet Suthers remarked. “We hope many of you will use your UCCS degree to join our local workforce and help our community prosper.”

“On behalf of Colorado Springs, Olympic City USA, we want you to know how proud we are of your accomplishments and perseverance during this time,” added mayor John Suthers.

Kyle Hybl, CU regent emeritus, president and CEO of El Pomar Foundation and a CU Boulder alumnus, class of ’96, had words of advice for the graduating class.

“Mountain Lions, during these challenging and changing times, there is opportunity that will be created,” Hybl remarked. “I hope each of you is able to see and take advantage of those opportunities.”

John Herrington ’83, retired NASA astronaut and the first member of a Native American tribe to fly to space, crouched in front of a small hangar at his home in Marion, Montana. After introducing his dog Emmy, Herrington shared with the graduates about his 22-year career in the U.S. Navy as a naval aviator test pilot and astronaut, as well as his opportunity to take three space walks from the International Space Station.

“You never know how far you’re going to go when you graduate from UCCS,” he said. “Congratulations to each and every one of you. I look forward to, sometime in the future, hearing about how you change the world – because you can.”

Katie Kurtz ’75, attorney and owner of the law firm Kurtz & Peckham, followed with words of wisdom.

“We need you,” Kurtz said. “The world needs you, especially now – needs your compassion, your integrity, your creativity, your hearts and your minds. Go forth and shine.”

U.S. senator Cory Gardner tuned in, remarking, “UCCS grads are making an impact around the globe, and certainly around Colorado. I certainly look forward to the great achievements and accomplishments that all of you will have in the coming years.”

And UCCS alumna Christine Izuakor ’16, founder and CEO of Cyber Pop-Up, helped to close out the messages with acknowledgment of the determination it took for the Class of 2020 to reach their graduation day.

“Speaking from experience, I know it’s not an easy journey,” Izuakor remarked. “But you’ve pulled through despite the struggles, despite the cards that might have been stacked against you, despite anyone or anything that might have tried to stop you. You made it.”

“You’re going to go on to do amazing things, and I am rooting for you all,” she concluded. “Welcome to the Mountain Lion family!”

See more of the messages to graduates: