Chancellor praises graduates for persevering during 'historic time’

More than 630 students received degrees at virtual commencement ceremony
A total of 637 students received diplomas Dec. 19 during a virtual commencement ceremony. / UW-Stout
​Jerry Poling | December 19, 2020

More than 630 graduates at University of Wisconsin-Stout were congratulated Saturday, Dec. 19, by Chancellor Katherine Frank not only for earning their degree but for achieving their goal during a challenging time in U.S. history.

“You have persevered and succeeded amidst extraordinary conditions, during an historic period of time. You have a story to tell about what it meant to be a university student during the year 2020,” Frank said, citing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A total of 637 students — 504 undergraduates and 133 Graduate School students — received degrees in a virtual ceremony. A traditional cap and gown ceremony was not possible because of the pandemic.

Katherine Frank
Chancellor Katherine Frank / UW-Stout

“You have a story to tell about how this experience prepared you to be resilient, flexible, equipped to solve problems and ready to communicate effectively across a range of modalities and perspectives,” Frank said in a recorded speech.

“You have a story to tell about how you have left your mark in history and how you will leave your mark on the future. We believe in all of you, and you have given us much to look forward to,” Frank said.

Along with Frank’s speech, the ceremony included student speaker Jon Rzeznik, of Watertown, the awarding of a posthumous degree and a reading of graduates’ names by the deans of the school’s colleges.

Rzeznik received a Bachelor of Science degree in information and communication technologies.

“Today marks a reason to be both proud and humbled. We can be proud as new scholars and now Stout alumni. We are humbled because the spirit of scholarship has been entrusted to each of us and the faith of the world upon us to use our newfound powers for good,” he said.


John Rzeznik speaks at commencement Dec. 19.
Graduate Jon Rzeznik speaks at commencement. / UW-Stout

“We are all taking one step up today; indeed, the word graduate comes from the Latin word gradus, meaning degree or step in the sense of moving up or forward.”

Rzeznik earned his degree while working full time as a network operations center engineer at INOC in Madison. He originally began college in 2004 at UW-Stout but left and earned two associate degrees. He returned to UW-Stout in 2019 to finish his bachelor’s.

“Each of us has had moments and obstacles when we were challenged. We are here today because we’ve overcome these challenges, and for that each of us can genuinely feel proud,” he said.

A Bachelor of Science degree was awarded with honors to Meredith Woods, of Osseo, Minn., who died in June. Woods, a psychology major, would have been a senior this fall.

The degree was conferred by interim Provost Glendali Rodriguez. “Meredith was an exemplary student. She had planned to continue her education and pursue a graduate degree. It is with much Stout pride and care that I award the degree of Bachelor of Science in psychology, magna cum laude, posthumously, to the family of Meredith Woods,” said Rodriguez, who asked for a moment of silence.

The ceremony included music recorded specially for the event by the UW-Stout Symphonic Band and Jazz Orchestra, directed by Aaron Durst, and the UW-Stout Symphonic Singers and Chamber Choir, directed by Jerry Hui.

To view the ceremony and for more information, go to the commencement website.

UW-Stout offers classes during the winter break, Winterm. Spring semester classes begin Monday, Jan. 25.


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