MSU President's Column for Traill County Tribune

May 18, 2019

Graduation is a time of celebration, reflection

Saturday, May 11, commencement day, was a great day to be a Comet! Well-wishes, tears of joy, smiles, laughter, memories, thoughts of the future, and reflections on time spent at “the school of personal service” were highlights of the occasion.

It was a great honor for us to have 1987 Mayville State graduate Brad Wehe with us as our commencement speaker. After earning a biology degree at Mayville State, Brad earned a degree in physical therapy at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. After working as a physical therapist for several years and earning three additional degrees, he became an administrator with Altru Health System in Grand Forks, N.D., where he is now chief executive officer. Along the way, he also got married, and he and his wife became the parents of three kids. In addition, he was challenged with health concerns that he has learned to overcome.

In his inspirational message to the graduates, Mr. Wehe shared his thoughts on the journey of life.

  • Life goes really fast. Don’t miss it!
  • Stay nimble and surround yourself with great people.
  • Sometimes you need to lean on others.
  • Sometimes life will absolutely kick you in the gut. Believe in yourself. Be true to yourself. Stick to your values. You should always have others you can depend on, but you need to be able to depend on yourself too. It’s not about WHAT happens to you. It is about HOW you respond to it.

Brad shared his appreciation for the late Dr. Robert Ralston, who was chair of the Mayville State Science Department and Brad’s academic advisor. He worked with Brad to regroup when he was not accepted into the first physical therapy school for which he applied in 1984. As they sat together and set up the road map for Wehe’s next few academic years, Ralston casually glanced over at Brad. Seeing the look of despair and helplessness, Ralston said, “Look, these things will happen in life. Don’t worry about it. There’s a plan. There’s always a plan. You just don’t get to see it.”

This is a sentiment Wehe has reflected upon multiple times during his journey of life.

“There is a plan,” Wehe said as he encouraged the graduates. “Sometimes it will take years to play out, but be patient, carefully select the core group who you can lean on, trust, and use as your advisors in life. Listen to the plan. It’s much larger than what you can ever see in the moment.”

Mayville State’s legacy of personal service was highlighted over and over again as not only Wehe, but also the student speakers, both at commencement and at the graduation brunch, shared their reflections.

In their remarks, Bethany Larson, Miranda Petersen, and Annjeanett Urbano did an outstanding job of representing their classmates during the traditional graduation brunch held for the graduates and their families on the morning of May 11.

Bethany tied her experiences and thoughts on the future to Dr. Seuss’s book, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go.”  She expressed her excitement for finally having the opportunity to enter a classroom as the teacher with the official title of “Miss Larson.”

Miranda talked about how Mayville State is “home.” She said, “Here you are NOT just a number, but here you are family.” Further, she expressed how Mayville State has been a special place for her family for generations.

Annjeanett talked about the adversities in her journey in life from childhood and through college. She described how the friends she has made at Mayville State have become her family. She acknowledged her mentor and Mayville State professor Lona Smith, who worked with her and pushed her to finish strong. She wrapped up her remarks by verbalizing her feeling of accomplishment to her mom, who passed away when Annjeanett was eight years old, “Momma, I did it!”

Joelle Ertl and Jacob Leier represented the Class of 2019 at the podium during the commencement ceremony. Again, each of them underscored lessons in personal service.

Ertl spoke of what she described as the greatest lesson she’s learned at Mayville State. She said, “My identity is not in what I achieve, but in how I serve others. This lesson has shaped my interaction with fellow students. It has influenced my choice of career, and it has deeply affected who I am as a person and each decision I make. I have realized my worth does not come from what I’ve done. It comes from how I treat others and how I make those around me feel.”

Leier summarized his time at Mayville State by saying, “I have been so blessed to have had the chance to face my fears head on, and from them, to have found my passions and my confidence.” He then challenged the graduates to “seek out those things that terrify you! You might be pleasantly surprised to find that these scary things will help you develop confidence in what you are passionate about and will change your life forever.”

Commencement day puts the seal of approval on all that we do day in and day out at Mayville State University. We know that we are most definitely making a positive difference in the world, and I couldn’t be more Comet Proud.