Tony Frank: On commencement

I recently received the photo below from a Colorado State University student in Fort Collins, Amber Torres, along with an invitation to her graduation party. We met a couple of years ago, when she was volunteering to help new students move into the residence halls for the first time, and I was there greeting families and carrying a few boxes here and there. She asked if we could take a selfie, and her energy and spirit in this picture make me smile – it’s that energy and spirit that made working on a college campus so worthwhile.

Two people taking a selfie.Now Amber is wrapping up her degree in Zoology and heading off for what undoubtedly will be a bright future. She is one of roughly 11,000 students who will graduate from one of our CSU campuses this year. But for students like Amber and those she helped move into the halls pre-pandemic, reaching the finish line is an even greater accomplishment than it has been for many of those who came before them. These students had to complete their college years while navigating all the challenges of a pandemic, and now they enter a wildly competitive job market and an economy that is still reeling from the pandemic strain.

And of course, Amber is just one. Scott Gamel of Aurora, a CSU Global student in Management, used to joke that his four-year degree took him 35 years to earn. He was urging one of his staff members to go back to school, when he made a deal with her: If she went back to college, so would he. She did, so he did…and now he’s graduating. Jenna McKinley from Mosca found success as both a scholar and a track and field athlete – earning the Threlkeld Prize for Excellence at CSU Pueblo, one of the campus’s highest honors. And now she’s heading back to CSU Pueblo to earn her graduate degree.

There are thousands of wonderful stories about this year’s graduates.

Make no mistake: Their success in earning their diplomas and entering the workforce is important to the future of Colorado. Eighty six percent of the Colorado students who graduate from a CSU System campus stay to work in the state. About 50% of those who move to Colorado from somewhere else to attend a CSU institution will stay on here after graduating. CSU alumni alone pay about 3% of the state’s total taxes, including more than $209 million in state income tax every year and $128 million in sales, use, and excise taxes.

Even more important, the data have shown that college graduates are more likely to vote, more likely to volunteer in their communities, more likely to stay employed during an economic downturn, and less likely to engage in self-harming behaviors ranging from tobacco use to drug abuse. By and large, they make great citizens to help move our state forward in the years ahead.

I expect that this class – Amber, Scott, Jenna, and their peers – will take that even further. They have demonstrated a remarkable resilience and willingness to persevere against monumental challenges. They have a commitment to service and caring for others that showed itself in their leadership and behavior throughout the last year and a half. They are our future, and I think we’ll be in good hands.

A special congratulations to all of the CSU System 2021 graduates!


This message was included in Chancellor Frank’s May newsletter. Click here to subscribe to the Chancellor’s monthly letter.

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3D magazine with the Winter 2021 cover