Northrip urges 2013 UAS graduates to hear their music

Hundreds of friends and family members attended the graduation ceremony. (Photo by Heather Bryant/KTOO)

UAS Chancellor John Pugh. (Photo by Heather Bryant/KTOO)

Former KTOO General Manager Charles Northrip was the commencement speaker. (Photo by Heather Bryant/KTOO)

Joe Newman, father of Casey Newman, accepted a degree on his son's behalf. (Photo by Heather Bryant/KTOO)

Charles Winthrop receives his honorary degree.

One graduate decorated her graduation cap. (Photo by Greg Culley)

The University of Alaska Southeast held commencement ceremonies at its three campuses in Sitka, Ketchikan and Juneau over the weekend.

At the Juneau campus on Sunday, Chancellor John Pugh said UAS would award nearly 700 degrees, certificates and occupational endorsements in 2013. He said the regional university model benefits communities throughout Southeast and around the state.

“UAS has been able to reach out to communities throughout Alaska with e-learning programs to provide access to hundreds of students who would not have had the opportunity to attend college if there were not these programs that reach out all over Alaska, and the Lower 48, and even the world,” Pugh said.

This year’s commencement keynote speaker was former KTOO General Manager Charles Northrip, who received an honorary doctorate from the university for his accomplishments in the field of broadcasting. Northrip is currently working to set up independent media operations in war-torn Sudan and South Sudan with the Education Development Center’s Sudan Radio Service. He previously did similar work in the Balkan countries of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Northrip quoted comedian George Carlin in his message to graduates: “George said, ‘People who dance are considered insane by people who can’t hear the music.’”

Northrip challenged graduates to hear their own music.

“Not everyone’s music is the same,” he said. “Mine seems to lead me into building stations, or networks, or to places where somebody needs help or even a rescue. I’ve had many colleagues who’ve stayed in the same place for a long time, but have done pioneering research, or created works of art or performance.”

This year’s student speaker was Forest Haven, a Social Science major who graduated with a 3.99 grade point average. Originally from Metlakatla, Haven earned an Associate’s degree from the UAS Ketchikan campus before transferring to Juneau to earn her Bachelor’s degree.

In preparing for her speech, she asked classmates what graduation means to them. She noted that the common theme seemed to be that getting an education allows graduates to be better people and do something for others.

“One of the greatest things that I will take away from the educational experience here is the knowledge that we can affect change beyond ourselves,” Haven said. “I don’t mean we have to be Ghandi or Mother Theresa. But I am saying we, all of us, must remember that we are part of a community, whether you see that community as Juneau, as the United States, or even as humanity.”

Haven said her post-graduation plans include fishing, hunting and pursuing a PhD in Anthropology.

Other speakers at UAS commencement included University of Alaska Student Regent Mari Freitag and UA System President Pat Gamble.

The University of Alaska Anchorage also held its graduation ceremony on Sunday. University of Alaska Fairbanks commencement is this coming Sunday.