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Sorensen announced Dec. 2 that he will retire Aug. 15, 2014, after 26 years as chancellor. He has been in public education for 45 years.
His charge to the class was based on a quote by Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw: "Some men see things as they are and say why? I dream things that never were and say why not?"
"I would ask that each of you take this sentiment to heart. Don't simply see things as they are. Don't simply accept the status quo. Don't simply follow the crowd," Sorensen told the 772 graduates, including 98 from the Graduate School, during 9:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. ceremonies at Johnson Fieldhouse.
"Instead, dare to dream, dare to trust in yourself, dare to believe in your ability to reach beyond the here and now."
Sorensen also offered advice by way of four simple but important lessons he has learned.
First, don't underestimate the transformational power of education and the doors it can open. "It is as powerful as any tool you will ever have. Opportunities are limitless for you."
Second, a degree is a beginning, so put it to good use. "Use it to benefit yourself and society. Commit to excellence, focus sharply and work hard."
Third, be a calculated risk-taker or "you will live with the fear of failing, you will live a smaller life and not live up to the great potential that resides in each of you."
Fourth, maintain balance in your life. "My life has been made richer by my wife, Toni, my three daughters, seven grandchildren and our first great-grandchild. I have loved being your chancellor; my family has been the balance."
He quoted Albert Einstein: "Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep balance you must keep moving."
Sorensen recounted some of the major progress UW-Stout has made during his tenure, citing the collaborative help he has had from students, faculty and staff.
"The people here working together, sharing a vision and forming effective teams did all of this. The lesson: people are critical for success to happen. No one can do it alone."
He told graduates that, like them, he is entering a new stage in his life. Looking back, he said, "No regrets. It has been a marvelous career."
"You are the new generation of leaders. You are young, you are bright, innovative, creative and full of optimism and the future is yours," he said.
After his speech, Sorensen conferred the degrees. Deans of the colleges presented the diplomas.
Joseph Bessie, 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.