Families, Friends Rejoice in New Graduates' Accomplishments
During 7 Ceremonies Over 3 Days, More than 3,000 Students Were Honored for Completed Degrees
May 22, 2013
The University honored more than 3,000 graduates, including 1,467 graduate students and doctoral candidates and 1,557 undergraduates.
Charlene Knadle scanned the graduates filing into the crowded gymnasium, searching for her youngest son, Stephen.
Cameras cocked, thousands of other family members did the same, waving frantically, whistling and shouting to draw the attention of the students.
Once she found him among the soon-to-be graduates, secured eye contact and waved, she took stock of the moment.
“I look back and I know how much time has passed, and I know I’m watching my youngest son graduate, but I still can’t believe it,” said the mother of four. “The time has gone by so fast. It seems like he just graduated from high school – and now here we are at his college graduation.”
Stephen Knadle graduated cum laude with a degree in criminology. His was among thousands of families that attended a record seven graduation ceremonies at The University of Texas at Dallas from May 16 to 18.
Dr. David E. Daniel, president of UT Dallas, presided over the ceremonies for more than 3,000 graduates, the largest spring graduation cohort in University history and a nearly 15-percent increase over last year.
During his remarks, he urged the new graduates to use their educations to contribute to the greater good.
“Remember where you are from,” Daniel said. “At UT Dallas, we embrace the unknown, study it, and turn what we find into something that serves people and society. We don’t wait for the future. We create it.”
New alumnus and emerging media and communications (EMAC) graduate Joe Posada exemplifies that spirit. As an undergraduate, the Dallas native devoted much of his time to working in UT Dallas’ Office of Diversity and Community Engagement, under the guidance of Director Raul Hinojosa.
Stephen Knadle, who graduated cum laude with a degree in criminology, enjoyed the support of his family, including (from left) his brother, Jonathan, and parents, Edward and Charlene Knadle.
Posada, a first-generation college graduate, has started a non-profit company called Great Minds that uses blogs, Facebook, text messages and more to create an academic support network for other first-generation Latino students. He said the idea came from his work in the Office of Diversity, which allowed him to serve as a high school mentor in the Dallas Independent School District.
“EMAC has given me not only the tools to become successful in school and in work, but also the ability to share my knowledge and aid younger students in their search for higher education,” he said.
Joe Posada, an emerging media and communications graduate, smiled after his walk across the stage.
President Daniel and several of the student speakers pointed to the importance of families who provided support, instilled values and opened opportunities to the graduates.
Eight-month-old Lily Pallett may have been too young to realize the role she played in inspiring her dad, Logan Pallett, to complete his degree. Wearing a white-and-black striped dress laced in pink, Lily was fawned over by family and nearby strangers as her mom, Christine, wiped away tears during the ceremony for the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science. Her husband graduated with a bachelor’s degree in computer science after an eight-year journey that included all-night study sessions, full time work during the day and hours of evening classes.
Christine Pallett spoke with pride and admiration of watching Logan “stay up all night and then get up for work at 6 in the morning.”
“It’s been tough, and he persevered through it all,” she said.
UT System Regent Brenda Pejovich conferred the new graduates.
Among the University’s guests was Brenda Pejovich, a member of the UT System Board of Regents, who joined the stage party during the Jonsson School ceremony.
“UT Dallas is one of the best in the country,” she said before the event. “It has one of the highest admission standards in the state. The quality of education is outstanding at UT Dallas, and we hear that from community leaders and employers.”
Moments of inspiration were woven throughout the three days of pomp and circumstance.
James Adol, who earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting and management information systems from the Naveen Jindal School of Management, came to the United States as a refugee from Sudan, one of that country’s orphaned and displaced “Lost Boys of Sudan.”
Mayra Velazquez, who earned a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies and plans to teach, was a sports team dancer for several years before completing her degree. The first in her family to finish high school and college, she said her family drove 12 hours from El Paso to attend her graduation.
Mayra Velazquez is the first in her family to finish high school and college.
“They rented a banquet hall with a DJ to celebrate,” she said with a smile, showing off her highly decorated mortarboard. “It’s so exciting!”
Katelyn Hanks received a standing ovation at the undergraduate ceremony for the Jindal School. Fellow students, faculty and the audience in the packed bleachers cheered as Hanks, who was born with cerebral palsy and typically uses a wheelchair, walked across the floor in front of the stage to shake President Daniel’s hand. Hanks earned her degree in management information systems and earlier this month received the Pride, Enthusiasm and Passion Award from the JSOM’s accounting department.
And then there was Sachin Shah, who made it rain.
Katelyn Hanks, who was born with cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, received a standing ovation when she walked across the floor in front of the stage to shake President Daniel's hand.
Shah was the student speaker representing the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. The McDermott Scholar, who graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in biology, coaxed the audience and graduates into rubbing their hands together, snapping their fingers and slapping their thighs to simulate the sound of a passing rainstorm.
“Do you hear that? That’s the sound of hundreds of Comets raining down on this gym. That’s the sound of endless possibilities. That’s the sound of Comets making an impact,” he said.
As attendees streamed out of the Activity Center to walk through the magnolia-scented mall to hug, take photographs and talk about future plans, Darryl Vicente grinned as family members snapped his photo.
“Being the first one to graduate with a bachelor’s degree, it’s exciting,” said Vicente, who earned a degree in psychology.
His mother, Irma Hernandez, said she has encouraged her children – four sons and one daughter – to seek degrees. “I’m very proud of him,” she said. “I always said to them, ‘Keep going.’”
Charlene Knadle, expressed what so many parents were surely thinking:
“Seeing Stephen finish is bittersweet. Things won’t quite be the same. He’s moving on and moving closer to starting his life.
“No more bringing dirty laundry home,” she added.
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