Sunday morning, 7,379 people gathered in the Kohl Center for the 2020 winter commencement ceremony.
There were approximately 1,200 graduates, including undergraduates, Ph.D. students and Master’s students.
The keynote speaker Jason Gay, Wall Street Journal sports columnist and University of Wisconsin alum, began his speech by taking a selfie with the graduates.
Gay then said his time at UW was the best four years of his life. He told the graduates while it is useful to prepare for the outside world it is often the “strange bends in the universe” that get you where you are going.
“It’s incredibly important to acknowledge our vulnerabilities, our frailties, our imperfections and all the times we’re struggling,” Gay said. “There’s zero shame in that, to struggle to occasionally get it wrong. I mean, I’m a sports columnist, I get it wrong somewhere between three and 450 times a week.”
Lisa Kamal, UW geology graduate and student keynote speaker, began her speech by singing part of “The Story of Tonight” from the musical “Hamilton.” Kamal said the “Hamilton” soundtrack got her through difficult times at UW.
Kamal said her experience as an international student from Malaysia made the transition to UW jarring.
Kamal said college students juggle a lot and this balance was made even harder for her as she was separated from all her friends and family by a 14 hour time difference. She said she was able to adjust by building close relationships with faculty, grad students and friends.
Kamal then congratulated the graduates.
“There’s everyday human experiences that give weight and substance to the certificate you are about to receive,” Kamal said.“Every sacrifice, every bit of energy you dragged out of you every morning, even if all you managed to do was scratch the bare minimum, you are here today, you are graduating today and I am proud of you.”
Chancellor Rebecca Blank said 2019 marks the 150th anniversary of UW’s first graduating class of women. The class consisted of six women, some of whom went on to be a lawyer, a high school principal and a prominent suffragist.
Blank said this milestone, along with the 50th anniversary of the Black Student Strike, serve as reminders that UW is a public institution and is for everyone.
Blank told the graduates they had just made the best investment of their lives.
Gay ended his speech by telling the graduates to embrace the chaos of life.
“Promise me that when you walk out these doors into that wonderful, life-affirming Wisconsin cold, you’ll change the world,” Gay said. “Then you’ll sprint back into the nearest building and warm yourselves up.”