“What will define you?” Upper Iowa University (UIU) alumnus and commencement speaker Marshall Richards shared this question, often posed to him throughout his life by his father, with graduates attending UIU’s commencement ceremonies Saturday. The ceremonies, a morning and afternoon ceremony depending on the degree received were held at Harms-Eischeid Stadium under mostly sunny skies in Fayette, Iowa.
Reflecting on the positive transformation he has witnessed at the University upon his return trips to Fayette Campus in recent years, Richards said, “I want to become part of this Upper Iowa movement that is committed to enriching the lives and education of our most precious commodity you the students of Upper Iowa.”
Richards graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in physical education at UIU in 1975. He began his professional career with the Iowa Development Commission in Des Moines, Iowa, and later joined the Bar-S Foods Company as a sales representative. Richards started a 29-year career with Frito-Lay Inc. (a Division of PepsiCo) in 1986. Less than a decade later, he was promoted to customer management sales vice president for the company’s Mountain Region in Phoenix, Arizona. He closed out his career by being recognized by the Arizona Food Marketing Alliance as the 2013 Supplier of the Year and the Mountain Region’s H.W. Lay Award for Sales Excellence in 2015.
Richards was inducted into the UIU Athletic Hall of Fame in 2011, joining his father, George, a 1983 inductee, as one of only two father and son honorees in the University’s Hall of Fame. Marshall Richards was a four-year letterwinner in football from 1971-74. During his senior year, the Peacock quarterback was named All Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Second Team, All-District 15 First team and National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics First Team.
“Life is too short to wake up in the morning with regrets,” Richards said. “So love the people who treat you right, forgive the ones who don’t, and believe that everything happens for a reason. If you get the chance, take it. If it changes your life, let it. Nobody said it would be easy. They just promise it would be worth it.”
Three students were awarded the prestigious Csomay Honors Program medallions during the commencement ceremony: Ashley Brock, a forensic science/chemistry double major from Severance, Colorado; Brett Cornforth, a biology major from Rochester, Minnesota; and Tara Hicks, a biology major from Merrick, New York.
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.
More than 600 graduates walked across the stage during the two commencement ceremonies. In 2018, approximately 1,540 students completed their associate, bachelor’s or master’s degree requirements at all UIU locations. Of those, 160 graduated from the Fayette location, some 925 completed their degree at one of UIU’s 20 locations in the United States, 300 graduated through online or self-paced study programs, and 155 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 37 states and 11 countries.
“After all of your hard work, dedication and determination, you’re sitting here today at the pinnacle of all that you’ve worked so hard to achieve,” said UIU Alumni Association President Angie Joseph ‘82 while addressing the graduates. “Most alums that I talk to have a positive unique experience at Upper Iowa and I firmly believe that you wouldn’t have chosen Upper Iowa if you didn’t have similar expectations. Today is a day that is all about you and your experience.”
Photos have been and will continue to be posted throughout the week to https://www.flickr.com/photos/upperiowauniversity/.