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UW-Eau Claire commencement speaker tells grads their lives are shaped by their decisions

| Gary Johnson

Photo caption: A total of 1,432 UW-Eau Claire students received their degrees during May 21 commencement exercises. (Photo by Bill Hoepner)

The decision by University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire graduates to become Blugolds has shaped their lives and provided them with “a great education in a very special place,” according to Saturday’s commencement speaker.

Dr. Brady Foust, a professor emeritus of geography at UW-Eau Claire for nearly 40 years, delivered the “Charge to the Class” at three commencement exercises in Zorn Arena.

While Foust says he does not know any of this spring’s graduates personally, “I do know the kinds of young people UWEC attracts and what they become during their journey to this graduation day.”

“When you leave this building today and spill out onto the campus, you will be entering a new world and leaving an old world behind,” Foust says. “Your life in that new world out the door will be inexorably shaped by where you’ve been for the past four years.”

A total of 1,432 students received their degrees during the commencement exercises; 1,298 students received bachelor’s degrees and 134 received graduate degrees.

UW-Eau Claire is known as a liberal arts university, Foust noted, and provides students with strong knowledge in arts and sciences, allowing them to pursue specialized majors such as physics, chemistry, mathematics, history, economics, business, nursing and geography.

“UW-Eau Claire is different from the other UW System campuses and because you decided to come here, you have become different,” Foust says.

Foust had simple advice for new graduates as they enter the job market: Show up on time, work more than anyone else, take on projects and do them without supervision, and remember that teams accomplish more than individuals.

The UW-Eau Claire Alumni Association awarded Foust and his wife, Jeanne, the Honorary Alumnus Award during commencement weekend. The couple donated $1 million to the UW-Eau Claire Foundation this academic year to establish the Brady Foust Geospatial Analysis and Technology Double Major Scholarship.

Chancellor James Schmidt congratulated graduates for attaining their educational goals during a tense and complex time in world history.

“You’ve endured a pandemic, supported your friends and family through tumultuous times, and watched as war and human ambition have changed our geopolitical landscape,” Schmidt says. “But your well-rounded education has given you perspective — that history is not static, but happening in this and every moment. As the broadcaster Paul Harvey once said, ‘In times like these, it helps to remember that there have always been times like these.’ We get to decide how we live in this moment.”

Schmidt says a UW-Eau Claire degree shows graduates’ ability to face challenges, explore new ideas and embrace life’s adventure with confidence and persistence.

“The education we provide here, and that you’ve successfully completed, is designed not to instill in you the ‘right answers,’ but to show you how to find the best answers where many possible courses of action exist,” Schmidt says.

“So, take action. Seize your opportunities. And greet every challenge as a moment for your instincts, for lessons learned, to illuminate a path where others see no way forward.”