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Commencement speakers urge graduates to work together toward success

Photo caption: More than 100,000 students have graduated from ceremonies at Zorn Arena.

Two Mayo Clinic physicians told University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire graduates on Saturday that their dreams can be realized if they embrace the transformative power of partnerships.

Commencement May 2024

Dr. Richard Helmers, regional vice president for Mayo Clinic Health System in Wisconsin, and Dr. Tim Nelson, director of innovation for Mayo Clinic Health System in Northwest Wisconsin, delivered the “Charge to the Class” to 1,485 graduates at the three ceremonies. Helmers and Nelson were recipients of honorary doctorates of science at the graduation exercises.

Nelson, a 1998 graduate of UW-Eau Claire in biochemistry and molecular biology, told graduates that partnerships have been at the heart of some of the greatest accomplishments in human history. Nelson told the story of a Mayo Clinic Health System team of engineers, scientists and medical professionals collaborating in the 1950s to produce the world’s first practical heart-lung bypass machine that revolutionized the field of cardiac surgery.

Through collaboration, graduates can drive positive change to “initiate the rippling effect that can be amplified and extended into future generations,” Nelson says.

“Whether you’re pursuing a career in health care, business or the arts, remember that the most profound transformations often arise from the collaboration and partnership of diverse minds and talents,” Nelson says. “Together we can go farther.”

Dr. Richard Helmers

Dr. Richard Helmers, regional vice president for Mayo Clinic Health System in Wisconsin

Dr. Tim Nelson

Dr. Tim Nelson, director of innovation for Mayo Clinic Health System Northwest Wisconsin

Helmers and Nelson have been integral parts of the research collaboration between UW-Eau Claire and Mayo Clinic Health System that has initiated more than 100 research and clinical innovation projects with the goal of improving patient health care outcomes.

“Chancellor (James) Schmidt often says that partnerships ‘succeed at the speed of trust’ — our UWEC/MCHS partnership has succeeded at the speed of the trust our institutions and leaders have in each other,” Helmers says. “Having great partners is another key element in success.”

Helmers told graduates they will need to overcome challenges on their roads to career success.

“Remember that the path to your goals and dreams will always have some detours that you don’t expect,” Helmers says. “But those detours will take you to places you never thought you could achieve. So, view these detours when they happen actually as opportunities.”

During his commencement message, Schmidt called the newest Blugold alumni a historic graduating class for remaining engaged and persevering while transitioning from high school to college during a global pandemic.

Commencement May 2024

“You are the latest in a long legacy of changemakers, entrepreneurs, public servants and community leaders for whom this court served as a launchpad,” Schmidt said. “You can carry the mantle of Blugold alum proudly, knowing it symbolizes an extraordinary commitment to improving the world with your intelligence, empathy and reliable presence.”

Schmidt noted that the 100,000th UW-Eau Claire graduate crossed the stage during Saturday’s ceremonies, which were the final graduation exercises at Zorn Arena. The 2024-25 academic year’s fall commencement in December will be the first in the new Sonnentag Event Center.