Moving Forward: More Than 1,600 Gator Graduates Celebrate Degrees At Commencement
By Mark Kramer
The cheers were loud. The energy was high. The spirit of celebration was definitely in the air at the University of Houston-Downtown’s 72nd Commencement Ceremonies on Sunday, May 15, at NRG Stadium.
Proud parents, friends, relatives, and friends filled the seats as more than 1,600 graduates crossed the stage to receive their degrees at two ceremonies. A noon ceremony featured the College of Humanities & Social Sciences, College of Sciences & Technology, and College of Public Service, while a late afternoon event showcased graduates from the Marilyn Davies College of Business and University College.
UHD's own Assistant Dean of Students Branston Harris welcomed the audiences at the two ceremonies with a capella performances of “The Star Spangled Banner.”
President Loren J. Blanchard praised the graduates in his address for their willpower and ability not only to effect change, but for having persevered when facing challenges.
“These last few years have been a rollercoaster, and still you have moved forward,” the President said. “You faced a pandemic and still you moved forward. Your classes transitioned to a temporary online modality, and still you moved forward. You possibly encountered great shifts in your work, school, and life balances, and still you moved forward. Look at you today, you’ve reached that ultimate moment where you are being recognized for your ability to rise and achieve your goals.”
Blanchard emphasized to the graduates that even though they have finished this part of their academic journey, their impact will be felt for years to come.
“Because of your hard work, your reputation and your drive, people are already taking notice,” he said. “How do we know this? We see it in the incoming freshman applications, which are at record numbers for this upcoming academic year. These potential new students are doing it because they see your success. We know it because UHD is being considered more as a school of first choice.”
The ceremonies also included two distinguished civic leaders sharing words of advice with the graduates: Texas State Senator John Whitmire addressed students at the noon ceremony, while Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner spoke during the 4 p.m. event.
Senator Whitmire stressed the importance of reaching out to those people who are in need in the Greater Houston community. “Ask yourself what you can do through public service to help others,” he said. “There are people out there who need your help. I encourage you to do your part.”
Mayor Turner mentioned the city’s upward economic trend, especially with the development of The Ion technological hub on South Main and the Houston Spaceport aerospace facility that recently broke ground at Ellington Field.
“We are a can-do city, and you reflect that as you are the spirit of our city,” Turner said. “You are graduating at a time of unprecedented growth and technological advancement. I know all of you will represent UHD and this city well.”
UHD student speakers, Gabriela Medina Torres and Sebastian Troitino, encouraged their fellow graduates to keep moving forward in their lives and careers.
“The most powerful part of my UHD education is that I leave this institution full of hope and gratitude,” Torres said “UHD is part of who we are now, and we will be forever connected and supported as we move forward to build a better world.”
Troitino, a UHD undergraduate alumnus who received his MBA Sunday, encouraged graduates to believe in themselves no matter what the circumstances.
“UHD helped me find my purpose,” he said. “I learned more than just academic terms and business concepts. I found my purpose through learning about the value of friendships, the power of networking, and how beautiful life can be. This inspired me to live a good life and motivated me to help others do the same.”
To view the Commencement Ceremonies, visit the UHD Facebook page.
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.