Commencement speaker draws lessons from Chancellor Sorensen

May 10, 2014

Valuable lessons can be learned from the 26-year career of Chancellor Charles W. Sorensen, said the president of the University of Wisconsin-Stout Faculty Senate during commencement ceremonies Saturday at Johnson Fieldhouse.

"I think these are some lessons that everyone could benefit from, especially those who aspire to leadership," said Petre (Nelu) Ghenciu, who delivered the commencement keynote address.

A total of 1,021 undergraduates received their diplomas during the 9:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. ceremonies. A total of 193 graduate students will receive their degrees during a Graduate School commencement Sunday.

Sorensen announced in December that he would retire Aug. 15, marking his 26th year as the sixth chancellor in UW-Stout history. Five finalists have been identified in the search and screen process to find Sorensen's replacement; Ghenciu also is chairing that process.

Petre (Nelu) Ghencui addresses graduates as Chancellor Sorensen listens.Here are lessons Ghenciu learned from working with Sorensen in the past year:

"You need to listen. No one can learn anything if they are talking all the time. During meetings, Chancellor Sorensen says very little. But when he does speak, people listen.

"You need to take chances.Not everything Chancellor Sorensen has proposed or worked on during his time here has succeeded. … But none of (his) accomplishments … would have been possible without the chancellor personally sticking his neck out and trusting his judgment that the reward was worth the risk. People who never take a risk never achieve anything worthwhile.

"You need to be a lifelong learner. After earning a doctorate in history from his beloved Michigan State University and after spending 26 years as our chancellor, Chancellor Sorensen is as eager to learn as ever. Just ask him about the latest book he is reading. Learning is not a destination; it is a journey."

Ghenciu earlier recounted what he believed to be the major accomplishments of Sorensen's tenure, including being designated Wisconsin's Polytechnic University; growing the number of undergraduate majors from 20 to 45 and adding the first doctorate; numerous building projects; instituting the undergraduate laptop program; seeing enrollment increase from 7,000 to nearly 9,300; and winning the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.

Petre Ghenciu"We measure our success by what happens to our graduates once they enter the world of work," Ghenciu added. "Even through the worst recession since the Great Depression, UW-Stout under Chancellor Sorensen's guidance has maintained an amazing 97 percent employment rate for its graduates."

Ghenciu, a native of Romania, thanked Sorensen for his 26 years of service to UW-Stout and wished him many happy years in retirement.

Sorensen then conferred the degrees, but not before wishing all the mothers in attendance a happy Mother’s Day. He said he never would have started his academic career without the “nagging” of his late mother.

Deans of the colleges presented the diplomas. During the morning session, the family of Jesse D. Jensen, a senior majoring in industrial design who died in January, received her posthumous degree.

Jackie Weissenburger, provost and vice chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs, presided over the ceremonies. Mark Parsons, vice chancellor for University Advancement and Marketing, welcomed the graduates into the Stout Alumni Association.

Weissenburger, in remarks prepared for the Graduate School commencement Sunday, told those receiving advanced degrees that they were "fortified with one of the most important tools needed to navigate your future. It's not the diploma alone that counts — it is about what you've learned along the way and what you do with the education you have achieved in your journey to graduation today.

"Your future is in your hands — no one else's. Persevere, take risks, be a lifelong learner, embrace a vision for the future and take advantage of the opportunity provided by your advanced degree from UW-Stout."


Photo captions

Petre (Nelu) Ghenciu, chair of the Faculty Senate and commencement keynote speaker, addresses graduates during the morning ceremony Saturday, May 10, at Johnson Fieldhouse. Seated is Chancellor Charles W. Sorensen.