Mission Accomplished for More Than 2,100 UHD Grads
By Mike Emery
More than 2,100 Gator Grads plus friends and families gathered Saturday, Dec. 18 in NRG Stadium to close out an important chapter in their lives. During the University of Houston-Downtown's 71st Commencement, graduates walked the stage, turned their tassels and prepared for what's next in their lives.
The event marked UHD's return to regularly scheduled in-person graduation exercises in more than a year. It also concluded a year for UHD graduates that was at times tumultuous considering a historic winter freeze, a hurricane and the lingering pandemic,
"No matter your degree … no matter your career path, you are shining examples of the graduates produced by the University of Houston-Downtown … and all of us are proud of you," said UHD President Loren J. Blanchard in his remarks to graduates.
Morning and afternoon ceremonies spotlighted grads from UHD's five colleges, and at both ceremonies distinguished community speakers imparted advice to the audience.
"We don't grow when we do things that are easy, we grow when we do things that are challenging," said afternoon speaker Texas Senator Carol Alvarado. "You know we are living through some extraordinary times: A once in-a-lifetime pandemic, a once-in-a lifetime winter storm and a global economic recession. In these times it is more important than ever that you are engaged. It is your civic duty to do so."
The day's morning speaker Precinct 1 Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis also offered his insights to grads.
While 2,100 Gator Grads turned out at NRG Stadium, this year's grad count totaled more than 2,500. Those celebrating their academic achievements included Yumn Khan, who at only age 18, earned her Bachelor of Arts in Fine Arts degree. She hopes to apply her talents to bringing awareness to social issues. Another grad Titi Awoniyi completed her second degree from UHD on this day, a Master of Business Administration. A quadriplegic since infancy, she never slowed down during her quest for knowledge. Next stop … law school.
These are just two of the inspiring stories to take place on this day, and while classes have concluded, there were still lessons to be learned on this important day.
Chidozie Oguejiofor, who earned his bachelor's in Biology, admitted that UHD was not his first choice … but it was the right choice. He also admitted some challenges during his early years as a student, but those hurdles made him a stronger person.
"As you embark on this new chapter of your life, don't be discouraged by any challenges," he said. "There are times when you may fail ... it's inevitable and it happens to everyone. However, know that there is always a lesson to be learned. Surround yourself with positivity... and no matter the circumstances ... never give up."
During morning and afternoon events, President Blanchard awarded the University's Presidential Medallion to Sen. Alvarado and her colleague in the Texas Senate, Borris Miles, for their support of higher education in the state. Accepting on behalf of Sen. Miles was his wife Cydonni Miles.
"Commencement is a momentous achievement," Blanchard told graduates. "There are rare occasions we hold with us forever. Earning a college diploma certainly ranks highly among these never-to-be-forgotten moments."
The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD)—the second largest university in Houston—has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974.
As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates more than 15,000 students; boasts more than 60,000 alumni and offers 45 bachelor’s, nine master’s degree programs and 16 fully online programs within five colleges (Marilyn Davies College of Business; Humanities & Social Sciences; Public Service, Sciences & Technology; and University College).
UHD has the most affordable tuition among four-year universities in Houston and one of the lowest in Texas. The University is noted nationally as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, Minority-Serving Institution and Military Friendly School. For more on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit www.uhd.edu.