66th Commencement a ‘Field of Dreams’ Come true for Graduates
1,400 graduates receive diplomas during ceremonies at Minute Maid Park
By Mark Kramer
As the Spring 2019 graduates of the University of Houston-Downtown crossed the stage to receive their diplomas during the 66th Commencement, it was evident that the degrees they worked so hard to earn are now the beginning of dreams coming true.
While Minute Maid Park is the home of the 2017 World Champion Houston Astros, on this day, it was the achievements of 1,400 UHD Gators that shined in the spotlight during two ceremonies on Saturday, May 18.
Students from the Marilyn Davies College of Business and College of Public Service were awarded their degrees during morning ceremonies among crowds of family and friends. Later in the afternoon, students from the College of Humanities & Social Sciences, College of Sciences & Technology and University College were presented with their diplomas.
“It took hard work, long hours and ‘Gator Grit’ to reach this moment.” UHD President, Dr. Juan Sánchez Muñoz said. “A new chapter begins in your lives as you will be proud alumni of the University of Houston-Downtown. You will hold a degree that will help you ascend in your careers and contribute to the cultural and economic landscape of our city and our great state.”
Safia Kuzu, who received her bachelor’s degree in Social Work, served as the student speaker for the morning ceremony. She shared with her fellow students that she is proud to graduate from a university that empowers people that come from diverse backgrounds.
“Each one of us has a unique story and a therefore a unique voice,” she said. “Let us remember the value that our voices can bring. Not only for ourselves, but for others.”
Nicolas Flores, a first-generation college student who earned a Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics, addressed graduates at the afternoon commencement. He shared his plans to teach high school math and has goals of becoming a professor at the college level.
“My message to my fellow Gators is to be an inspiration for the next generation by serving as positive examples to the world,” he said. “By doing so, you will exemplify what it means to finish UHD Strong.”
Morning guest speaker Chris Gardner shared his hopes for the graduates, by encouraging them to be exemplary in their chosen professions. Gardner’s autobiography, “The Pursuit of Happyness” became a New York Times No. 1 Best Seller. He was also the inspiration for the critically acclaimed film, “The Pursuit of Happyness,” where actor Will Smith received the Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild and Academy Award nominations for his performance.
“Whatever industry you are working in, be the very best at what you do,” Gardner said. “If you have a dream, you have to protect it. If you want something, go out and get it.”
Afternoon guest speaker and Harris County Precinct One Commissioner Rodney Ellis shared his admiration for the students and encouraged them to “cherish” the moment of earning their college degree and urging all of the graduates to make sure they go out and “make a difference.”
“There will be many successes, but also learn from your failures,” Ellis said. “When you make a mistake, pick yourself up and use that Gator Grit and learn from it. If you can learn from your failures, that is when you will excel.”
Muñoz asked the students to remember those special people who helped them on their path to their college degree.
“Look around and you will see families, friends and faculty members. They offered support as you balanced careers and coursework,” he said. “Thank them for being there for you and for being here today to celebrate your remarkable achievement. Congratulations to all of our graduates for finishing UHD Strong!”
The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and 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 approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.
U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.