Athletes honored in alternative commencement ceremony

Track and field team members were at competition on graduation day
UW-Stout student athletes Jake Houghton, at left, Matt Lancour and Daniel Ressler wait to receive their diplomas Tuesday, May 7, during a special commencement ceremony.
Pam Powers | May 8, 2019

University of Wisconsin-Stout may well have had the quickest commencement ceremony ever Tuesday, May 7.

A special event was held for three middle distance and distance runners from the men’s track and field team who were unable to attend the Saturday, May 4, graduation because of the state conference outdoor championships in Platteville.

Chancellor Bob Meyer, Provost Patrick Guilfoile and Chuck Bomar, dean of the College of Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Management, dressed in their regalia and presided over the ceremony for Matt Lancour, of Little Chute, engineering technology; Jake Houghton, of Rochester, Minn., game design and development-art; and Daniel Ressler, of Johnsburg, Ill., applied science.

Participating in the student athlete ceremony was Dean Chuck Bomar, at left, Provost Patrick Guilfoile, graduates Jake Houghton, Matt Lancour, Daniel Ressler, Chancellor Bob Meyer and faculty athletic representative Jo Hopp.

Meyer gave an abbreviated address to the students. He told the parents the most important thing they can do for their children is to give them roots and wings. Roots are values, and wings give them freedom, Meyer said. He told the students they were about to take on a new, amazing journey. “You never know where your life is going to take you; be open to opportunities,” Meyer said.

He urged the students to come back and visit UW-Stout. “We want you to be successful,” Meyer said. “Come and visit us often. We can learn from what you learn in the world.”

After the chancellor’s address, Bomar presented the students to receive their degree. Meyer handed them their diploma, shook their hands and congratulated them. Meyer then led a singing of the school song, “Alma Mater.”

“I really, really liked the formality of it,” said Ressler, who plans to work as an emergency medical technician after graduation. “I didn’t expect it to be like an actual graduation ceremony. They went through a lot of effort and made sure we got the same opportunities as other graduating seniors.”

Houghton said he was honored the university took the time to hold a ceremony for them. “I really appreciated it,” he said.

His mother, Lisa Houghton, UW-Stout alumna who graduated in 1990 with a degree in graphic design, said she enjoyed the intimate ceremony held in the chancellor’s conference room in the Administration Building. “I thought it was awesome,” she said. “It was so nice of them to take the time.”

Meyer said he felt it was important to have a ceremony for the athletes who missed graduation because they were representing UW-Stout. “They had an official event that interfered with commencement,” Meyer said. “We wanted to give an opportunity to confer their degree on them and recognize their families like we would for other graduates.”

It’s the first time UW-Stout has held such a ceremony. About one-third of the eligible students attended.

Chancellor Bob Meyer address the student athletes at a special commencement ceremony Tuesday, May 7.

The idea started when Jo Hopp, department of chemistry and physics and a faculty athletic representative, learned of another university planning a special commencement for student athletes who were participating in an athletic function. Brian Finder, director of the master’s program in risk management and a faculty athletic representative, did most of the planning.

“Our student athletes are so proud to represent UW-Stout,” Hopp said. “We wanted a chance to celebrate with them.”

Lancour said family members encouraged him to attend to provide formal closure to his university career. “I really enjoyed it,” he said. “It was smaller and not quite as formal. I liked it was a shorter ceremony.”

The student athletes are among 1,319 graduates this spring at UW-Stout.

UW-Stout is Wisconsin’s Polytechnic University, with a focus on applied learning, collaboration with business and industry, and career outcomes.



UW-Stout Dean Chuck Bomar, at left, Provost Patrick Guilfoile, graduates Jake Houghton, Matt Lancour, Daniel Ressler, Chancellor Bob Meyer and faculty athletic representative Jo Hopp pose for a picture after a special student athlete commencement Tuesday, May 7.

Chancellor Bob Meyer addresses the student athletes at a special commencement ceremony Tuesday, May 7.

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