It was a sunny day for the graduating class of 2016 at Southern Oregon University Saturday. SOU awarded 1,000 students diplomas at the 90th commencement ceremony at Raider Stadium.
“Please consider not only how much you have grown during your time here, but also how much our campus has changed,” said SOU President Dr. Roy Saigo.
Saigo began the ceremony by thanking students for their contribution to projects such as the new theater and recreation center to be completed in 2017.
“So many of you took the time to promote a project that you may never be able to enjoy. It shows how much you love our university,” said Saigo.
He ended his speech by reminding students that although they would begin working harder than ever before with their new degrees, he would be “working less and fishing more” with his second retirement to come July 31.
Dr. Harry Kloor, SOU alumnus, then took the stage and encouraged graduates to stand.
“Take a picture of yourself. If you don't have a phone, photobomb the person next to you. Send it out on Twitter,” said Kloor. ”Some behind me might be questioning their choice of speaker. But tomorrow when you're hung over, you won't remember the speech, but you will have the selfie.”
Dr. Kloor is the first, and only, person to have earned two Ph.D. degrees simultaneously. He is also a writer, scientist, educator, researcher, inventor, editor, producer, national technology policy advisor and chief technology officer.
“Tradition dictates that commencement speakers give advice …,” said Kloor. “Let me tell you about choices instead.”
Kloor described series of events in his life depicting choices he has made and how the outcomes of those choices has benefited him countless times. Consequently, the first choice he described was going to SOU and how the University molded his view on what he wanted to accomplish in life. He was told that SOU wasn’t a good enough school for him.
“Be confident and ignore the naysayers and choose something you really want to do…” said Kloor. “The only limit is your choice.”
The second story he told graduates was how he was born with his legs backwards. He grew up with leg braces and was told that he would never walk without them. Kloor compared himself to Forrest Gump when he said that one day he took the braces off and ran. He credits being able to walk without braces to his mother, who he said told him to not listen to experts, because they are narrow-minded.
“Don’t bend to reality, bend reality to you,” Kloor said.
Kloor explained how he earned two Ph. D.’s, even though it was against the rules to earn them simultaneously. Within this success story was hidden the advice, “Don’t follow stupid rules.”
After becoming as qualified as imaginable for a scientific career, Kloor moved to L.A. and beat the odds again by becoming the top freelance writer for Star Trek.
“Have the courage to choose your passions,” said Kloor.
Kloor ended his whirlwind of tails with a story about death. After suffering many deaths in his immediate family, Kloor chose to save his late brother’s essence after doctors said it was impossible. He preserved enough for his late brother’s widow to bear his child if she ever chooses to. This strange anecdote gave way to the most important advice of the day. Kloor described how all the deaths in his family made him realize that he had grown apart from the family he had left.
“Whoever you love, choose to love them despite your passions, “said Kloor.
Graduate and student speaker, Torii Uyehara, reminisced of the good and bad of an SOU college experience.
“We all started in different ways, taking on the task of gaining an education. We all embraced the term ‘yes,’" said Uyehara. “We can't let the fear of the unknown stifle our dreams. Our potential is limitless.”
Uyehara, president of the Associated Students of SOU, graduated with a Bachelor of Science in business administration.
Adriana Alexander, B.A. in biology, and Benjamin Comer, B.A. in criminal justice, received the Dankook Award for Outstanding Undergraduate Students. This award commemorates more than 30 years of friendship between SOU and Dankook University in South Korea.
Nicole Doran, M.A. in management, received the Universidad de Guanajuato Award for Outstanding Graduate Student.
“The tassle was a hassle,” said Uyehara.
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