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Media Memo: Commencement Remarks

TO: News/Assignment Editors

FROM: Judy Berthiaume, director, UW-Eau Claire News Bureau

DATE: May 25, 2005

SUBJECT: Commencement Remarks

Dr. Donald Mash, the executive senior vice president of the UW System who served as UW-Eau Claire's chancellor for seven years, delivered the commencement address at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire's spring 2005 commencement ceremonies May 21.

In his address, Dr. Mash encouraged the 1,000-plus graduates to become advocates for higher levels of education for everyone and to be proponents for public higher education, providing others with the opportunity to learn and grow in an academic setting so they may position themselves for a better life.

The benefits of supporting public higher education go far beyond the benefits that the individual degree-holder enjoys, Mash said. For example, a more educated work force will help create, grow and attract new businesses; provide more tax revenues; and increase the quality and quantity of civic engagement in communities.

Mash told graduates that as a nation we have become complacent about our commitment to funding public higher education. He used Wisconsin as an example, noting that the state's share of support for the campuses has greatly diminished in recent decades, limiting what the UW System can to do help a number of the state's residents obtain a college degree. In particular, he said, the UW System is not able to reach out to under-represented populations such as those who are low-income or adults who didn't go to college directly from high school.

As a result, in the last decade Wisconsin's rank in the percentage of its residents with four-year degrees has dropped significantly and now falls below the national average.

Mash encouraged the graduates to consider additional taxes paid to support higher education as an investment in their future quality of life, and he asked them to encourage their elected officials to look to the future as they make funding decisions. Graduates should not assume that there will be the resolve to support and sustain places like UW-Eau Claire given the decisions that are being made by today’s leaders when faced with tough decisions. If you value it, you’ll need to work actively to preserve it, he said.

Dr. Mash is available to talk in more detail about the points he made in his commencement address. You can reach him at (608) 262-4048 or dmash@uwsa.edu. The media also is welcome to use any or all of the speech.

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