May 12, 2012. Retrieved online May 14, 2012 from Lauren E. Toney, Las Cruces Sun-News
LAS CRUCES — Hundreds of New Mexico State University students saw years of hard work and dedication to their chosen field of study recognized Saturday during two commencement ceremonies honoring the new degree-holders at the Pan American Center.
More than 2,200 Aggies received the degrees that will equip them to pursue careers throughout the country during the 119th commencement at NMSU. Two former students of the university, who returned to accept honorary degrees Saturday, also served as speakers during the ceremonies, imparting advice learned from decades of experience.
The NMSU Registrar’s Office reported that 2,215 students were candidates for bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees this semester. Of those, about 1,500 students participated in two commencement ceremonies at the Pan American Center, with thousands more family members, loved ones, mentors and professors there to congratulate and celebrate their achievements.
Maribel Lozoya-Hernandez, 40, has dreamed of earning a master’s degree in communication disorders since she was a teenager. During Saturday morning’s commencement ceremony, she walked across the stage at the Pan American Center and achieved that longtime goal.
“It feels great. It was a long journey to get here, so it’s a big accomplishment,” she said following the ceremony.
Lozoya-Hernandez witnessed her grandfather, who lived in a rural town in Mexico, lose his ability to speak following a
stroke several years ago.
“When he stopped speaking, I thought that there had to be more we could do to help,” she recalled. “That experience was my inspiration.”
Honorary doctor of letters degrees were awarded to Judy Gray Johnson and Bill Sheriff.
Both recipients previously attended NMSU, developed distinguished careers and have generously contributed to the university’s improvement….
Echoing Sheriff’s concluding remarks to graduates during Saturday’s afternoon ceremony, Johnson also urged the soon-to-be NMSU alumni to proudly represent themselves as Aggies as they enter the working world and to give back to their alma mater.
NMSU President Barbara Couture explained that Johnson has experienced a successful accounting and management career in the private and public sectors for more than three decades that has afforded her the opportunity to give back to the university in many capacities throughout the years.
Johnson and her husband Michael have made generous contributions to NMSU, including establishing the Daisy Gray Undergraduate Endowed Scholarship in the College of Education, creating the Lionel Haight Professorship in accounting and an endowed chair in the Department of Geological Sciences. She also serves the university as a member on the College of Business Advisory Council and the College of Education Board of Advocates.
Tearing up at the beginning of her address to students, Johnson explained that she was just 12 credits shy of receiving her bachelor’s degree from NMSU when she transferred to the University of Houston to join the love of her life and now husband, Michael.
“I had a good education from NMSU, just not the degree. The education I received at NMSU was every bit as good, if not better than the one I got at (the University of Houston). This is a great university and you all have so much to be proud of,” she said to graduates.
Johnson urged students to think about contributing financially to the reputation and success of their alma mater in the future.
“I chose to honor a family member,” Johnson said, referring to the Daisy Gray Undergraduate Endowed Scholarship, named for her grandmother. “She worked just as hard, if not harder, for her degree than anyone else.”
As a full-time teacher in Las Cruces, Johnson said her grandmother began taking courses, one or two each summer, to earn her bachelor’s degree from NMSU.
“It took her 15 years, but she earned her bachelor’s degree in education,” she said. “(Because of the scholarship) nobody will every forget the story of Daisy Gray and someone will always have that scholarship.”
Read the Las Cruces Sun-News article