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Commencement speaker urges Blugolds to work for the public good

| Gary Johnson

Photo caption: Blugolds were all smiles Saturday at fall commencement ceremonies at Zorn Arena.

Alumna Dr. Pamela Matson urged University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire graduates on Saturday to partner with other people to work for the good of everyone.

“It’s incredibly hard to accomplish anything worthwhile working all alone,” says Matson, a former dean at Stanford University who is considered one of the leading climate and sustainability scientists in the world. “Collaborations and partnerships make it possible for us to succeed, and that takes respect for different people with different ideas and different ways of doing things. And, working together is more fun.”

Matson delivered the “Charge to the Class” at two commencement ceremonies for 682 students in Zorn Arena. Matson received an honorary doctorate of science, becoming just the third UW-Eau Claire graduate to receive an honorary doctorate from the university.

Dr. Pamela Matson

Dr. Pamela Matson delivered the “Charge to the Class.”

Matson, who grew up in Hudson and graduated magna cum laude in 1975 with a bachelor’s degree in biology, was the first in her family to earn a college degree. She called her time at UW-Eau Claire “the beginning of a lifetime of intensive learning.”

Matson was a research scientist at NASA-Ames Research Center, a faculty member at the University of California, Berkeley, and a professor and dean at Stanford. She says she learned important lessons in every position she held during her career.

“I learned the importance of having an open mindset — being open to trying new things and learning from what doesn’t work well, as well as what does,” Matson says. “It’s OK if you don’t know exactly what you’re going to do next. It’s OK to try different things and to take chances and even learn from failing. It’s a great way to figure out what you actually love, and life would be so boring without that.”


Matson says that as a sustainability scientist, she tries to find ways to meet the needs of people now and in the future. The work can be frustrating and even depressing at times, she says, but it’s important to remain optimistic and hopeful for the future.

“I believe if we become pessimistic in this complex world in which we live, we take the chance of becoming part of the problem rather than part of the solution,” Matson says. “So, keep up the faith, keep hopeful and even optimistic, and keep working for the good of everyone.”


Chancellor James Schmidt told graduates that what they have learned on their educational journey at UW-Eau Claire has no expiration date. They learned to evaluate new information and ideas, building a framework to make sense of complex problems.

Schmidt says that graduates’ decision to invest in themselves at UW-Eau Claire will resonate through all the decisions they make in the future.

“Your path forward is not certain, but you are ready to meet challenges head-on,” Schmidt says. “Your intention, effort and intelligence will help you make the next wise choice.”