TURLOCK, Calif. — With hundreds of proud parents, family members, friends and supporters cheering excitedly for graduates, Stanislaus State honored its Class of 2023 Thursday, May 25, during the first two of three Commencement ceremonies held in the University Amphitheater.
Festive red and gold flags and banners adorned the pathway graduates used to enter the Amphitheater. “Pomp and Circumstance” played during the traditional processional, then the graduates sat close together, something they hadn’t been able to do during a Commencement ceremony since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
But this year, on the first day of the University’s two-day Commencement exercises, those prior restrictions felt like a distant memory. Graduates marched and sat with their peers as guests filled the seats in the outdoor venue, many of them holding congratulatory signs, leis and floral bouquets for their graduate.
Stanislaus State’s 63rd Commencement kicked off Thursday morning with the ceremony for graduates from the College of the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. A joint ceremony for the College of Business Administration and College of Education, Kinesiology and Social Work followed later in the afternoon.
During her address, University President Ellen Junn praised graduates – many of whom are the first in their family to graduate from college – for their achievement despite the many challenges they have faced, especially during the past three years.
“What a road you’ve traveled to get to this moment,” Junn said. “No one anticipated that our lives would be disrupted by a global pandemic. But you persevered and made it through the mayhem, and you did so with fierce determination and a positive attitude. You did not lose your resolve. You never lost your hopeful spirit.
“During your time here, you have often heard talk of our Warrior Strength and our Warrior Pride,” Junn said. “You have experienced firsthand what it means to be a Warrior. In fact, each of you epitomizes what it means to be Warrior Strong.”
Resilience, sacrificing to achieve goals, uplifting others through words and acts of service, overcoming difficult circumstances and believing in oneself were some of the themes mentioned by speakers as they took to the podium to deliver their remarks.
Briana Sanchez, who is graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in communications studies, shared how she had to make a difficult choice to take advantage of promising prospects that came her way.
“Studying abroad gave me stories to tell instead of just dreaming about them and that’s something that will constantly impact my life,” she said. “I urge everyone to just smell the roses; take and enjoy the moments. Remember, you will always have opportunities come your way but let the choices you make today be choices you can live with tomorrow.”
Graduate Krishan Malhotra, who graduated with a Master of Business Administration, continued the theme of perseverance and challenged his fellow classmates to embrace difficulties as learning experiences.
“Our resilience amidst the struggles we’ve encountered shaped us into who we are,” he said. “It will shape your path moving forward and help leave a lasting impact and legacy on those around you. As we move forward with these transitions in our lives, be uncomfortable, be OK with making mistakes and be OK with failing.”
During the afternoon ceremony, President Junn conferred the Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters to community leaders and philanthropists Norm Porges and his son Evan Porges.
Norm Porges founded Prime Shine Car Wash in Modesto in 1991. That same year, after Evan graduated from college, he joined his father’s company. Over the years, the two grew the business into a successful chain, Prime Shine, Inc., which became California’s largest privately owned car wash operator. In 1997, Norm Porges partnered with the College of Business Administration to establish the Champions of the American Dream award and event, which recognizes individuals in the Central Valley who have distinguished themselves as entrepreneurs and have made exceptional contributions to the community.
Junn hailed the father and son as “two of our most visionary, humble, passionate and dedicated members of the community and supporters of our campus.”
“Norman Porges and Evan Porges are champions for the economic and social health of the Central Valley of California and for higher education as a catalyst to create a region that is diverse, inclusive, connected, vibrant and sustainable,” Junn said.
The Porgeses thanked the University and CSU for honoring them.
“It is our understanding that we are the first father/son team that has ever been awarded this honor in the history of the CSU,” Evan Porges said. “We are beyond humbled. I suspect we are also the first professional car washers to receive this honor.
“Graduates, this may surprise you, but we are not that special,” he continued. “What we did was see an opportunity, made a plan, took a risk and then worked harder than the rest. We sacrificed a lot of personal time and shed some blood, sweat and tears. We committed to the Central Valley and made it our mission to make a difference.
“You are now armed with a degree that will open doors and provide you with opportunities. There is so much opportunity right here in the Central Valley, and we ask that you stay and apply your talent, your brain and your passion right here in your Central Valley community.”
Norm Porges urged graduates to not be fearful of making mistakes.
“On this wonderful day celebrating your achievements, a day you will remember forever, I want to talk about failure,” he said. “I firmly believe that your success is measured not by your achievements, but how you manage your failures. No one is immune to failure. I can tell you, if you haven’t failed, you’re not trying hard enough. You need to endure, persist, be resilient and never give up.”
This year’s Commencement is Junn’s last as Stanislaus State’s president. She announced in January her plan to retire after the 2022-2023 academic year ends, capping a 39-year career in higher education. She served at the helm of Stan State for the past seven years.
The University’s Commencement exercises will continue Friday, May 26, with the third and final ceremony at 8 a.m. for College of Science graduates.
Recordings of Thursday’s and Friday’s ceremonies and photo galleries will be available on the University’s Commencement website.