RIVER FALLS – More than 800 students graduated from the University of Wisconsin River Falls May 7 in front of hundreds of family, friends and faculty.

The numbers were so big, two ceremonies were held – one in the morning for the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences and the College of Business and Economics.

The weather provided a good send-off for the graduates; bright and sunny. The sunshine and temperatures in the 70s provided ample photographic opportunities outside and around campus.

Graduates continued their celebration with friends downtown and at outdoor parties throughout the afternoon and evening. The positive atmosphere combined with the sunny Saturday made the city feel alive and vibrant. 

The afternoon ceremony represented graduates from the College of Arts and Sciences and College of Education and Professional Studies.

Capt. Richard Phillips gave an impassioned speech filled with knowledge, advice, inspiration and humor. 

Phillips became the center of an international drama when he was captured by pirates who attacked and boarded his ship in April 2009. He was rescued by Navy SEALS after a few days. 

“Your ship sails now,” he told the graduates. “Where will you navigate to? Where will you end up? Set your sail, captain. Mind that helm.”

 Phillips listed important things he has learned over the years such as valuing experience over money. He said that having challenges in work is more important than money.”

“Time is more important than money,” he said.

Phillps reminded graduates they are strong physically and mentally more than they know. He added students should not lose sight of their goals.

“Don’t stop short of your ultimate goal and always keep it in mind,” he said. “Failure is only final when we give up, give in or quit. Many first steps to success are preceded by failures.”

Phillips was proceeded by Chancellor Maria Gallo who congratulated the graduates on their achievements.

“Graduates, over the years, UW-River Falls empowered you to grow as people and scholars,” Gallo said. “You took chances, grabbed opportunities and never gave up. On this college journey, you showed everyone that you are strong, competent and compassionate. There is no doubt in my mind that you have and will continue to make our world a better place.”

Faculty Senate Chair Doug Margolis said the education students received will develop and evolve during their lives.

“But what starts in the classroom is only the lighting of a wick,” Margolis said. “That light burns inside you and will shape how you see and understand your world. Every day you will face experiences and challenges that will deepen your understanding and sharpen your skills.”

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