Over 400 receive diplomas at USD winter commencement University of South Dakota students attired in red robes to indicate they have met the scholastic qualifications to receive bachelor of arts or bachelor of science degrees from USD, walk toward the stage during commencement exercises Saturday morning in the DakotaDome. Each received warm congratulations, a handshake, and most importantly, their diploma from USD President James W. Abbott. by David Lias Former South Dakota legislator Mary Mumford Wagner admitted to her audience Saturday that giving the commencement address at the winter graduation ceremonies of The University of South Dakota "was an awesome task."
She noted that the university is an institution with outstanding students and faculty.
"I also find it awesome because in the many years that I've given speeches locally and statewide," Wagner said, "I have never given a commencement address."
That didn't stop her from leaving her audience with something to think about as they left the DakotaDome following Saturday's ceremonies.
She asked her audience to remember three things she described as "the three Cs": commencement, continuation, and community.
Commencement, she said, shouldn't be thought of as the formal end of one's education.
"Commencement should remind us of a beginning, the beginning of process that is going to be with you formally or informally for the rest of your lives," Wagner said.
Wagner, who earned a bachelor of arts degree in government in 1954 from USD, today lives in Keystone with her husband, former South Dakota State University president Robert Wagner.
She was a professor of sociology at SDSU for many years, and served in the South Dakota House of Representatives from 1981-88 and in the South Dakota Senate from 1988-92.
"Continuation is very much related to commencement," Wagner told the graduation candidates. "You are experiencing, as graduates, that first 'C.' The question is, what are you commencing to do?"
She knew that some of the USD grads would enter the world the work.
Others would commence to enter graduate school.
She can remember when she graduated from USD approximately 45 years ago, attitude was that "this place is history" and she couldn't wait to move on.
"I really thought I was done (with school)," Wagner said. "Some 15 years later, I was out in the world of work, and I discovered that my bachelor's degree was not going to be enough even to get the teaching job that I wanted in the public school in the community where I lived."
So, she continued her education. "We live in a rapidly changing world, and if you don't continue to learn, you'll get left behind."
Wagner said she thinks of the term "community" in four distinct ways: a city, like Vermillion, a state, like South Dakota, the national pride of being a citizen of a country like the United States, and the international community in which we all play a part.
"Much of what you do on a local level makes the community where you will settle a much better place to live," she said, urging the graduates to be active in civic affairs.