“Individually you are all experts, but together you become a well performing team, with the synergistic ability to achieve amazing goals,” said Upper Iowa University (UIU) alumnus Kenneth Williams as he addressed the graduates during UIU’s commencement ceremonies in Fayette, Iowa, Saturday.
Williams, an honored military veteran, is the co-owner, president and CEO of Beard and Tie Co., LLS, a disabled veteran business in St. Cloud, Florida. After graduating from high school in 1972, Williams joined the Army as a combat medic. Achieving the rank of command sergeant major, he served in numerous leadership, staff and field positions, including three combat tours and the senior medical non-commissioned officer for the installation. He retired honorably after 26 years of military service. His military honors include the Order of Military Medical Merit, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Combat Medical Badge 2nd Award, and Expert Field Medical Badge.
Following his military service, Williams graduated Cum Laude in 1999 with a bachelor’s degree in public administration at Upper Iowa University’s Fort Riley Center at Fort Riley, Kansas. Shortly thereafter, Williams was selected to lead the Department of Veterans activation contracting team as chief contracting officer for the Orlando VA Medical Center at Lake Nona, Florida. He retired in 2014 after 15 years of civilian service in the federal government.
“There are many options now that you have completed a postsecondary degree, allowing you to better compete with your peers for the best of everything the world has to offer,” said Williams. “It is a very competitive world out there, and no room for second place. As more and more individuals attain advanced degrees, this competition will only increase. You must commit yourself to the best possible outcome, be it in work or life.”
“You have no doubt learned a great deal during your educational experience at Upper Iowa,” he later closed. “As a university that values lifelong learning, there is no question that as a UIU alum, your passion for learning will be something you will carry with you always.”
Csomay Honor students recognized
Receiving the Csomay Honors Program medallions during Saturday’s commencement exercises were Dustin Hoefs, a management and marketing double major from Horicon, Wisconsin; Kelsey Carpenter, a biology major from New Hampton, Iowa; and Alisha VanderWoude, an environmental science and conservation management double major from Elgin, Iowa.
Before her death, Barbara (Rankin) Csomay, class of 1946, established UIU’s Csomay Honors Program. To be accepted into the Honors Program, students must have at least a 26 ACT score and at least a 3.5 high school grade point average. Students admitted to the Honors Program in any given year take the same courses as their fellow honors students. Each course generally is interdisciplinary and team-taught, with active, participatory learning. All honors courses require extensive, integrated, advanced writing skills. Seniors complete both an honors project and a thesis in their area of interest. Extracurricular experiences – such as service learning, attending professional conferences and other special events – are an integral part of the program.
“Let me start by saying how proud we are of you,” said UIU Alumni Association president Jason Wadell while closing the ceremonies. “All the hard work has led to this point, the completion of one segment in your life’s journey. As each of you depart these hallowed grounds today and follow a new path in life, we will make sure we are with you every step of the way.”
During the two commencement ceremonies held at Harms-Eischeid Stadium, approximately 530 graduates walked across the stage. In 2017, 1,666 students completed their associate, bachelor’s or master’s degree requirements at all UIU locations. Of those, 200 graduated from the Fayette location, some 794 completed their degree at one of UIU’s 25 locations in the United States, 372 graduated through online or self-paced study programs, and 300 were from the University’s international centers in Hong Kong and Malaysia. UIU is one of the most diverse universities in Iowa. In all, the graduates represented 40 states and 16 nations.
Photos from both of the commencement ceremonies can be viewed on Upper Iowa University’s Flickr page.