Passing the torch: NAU’s spring 2013 commencement speakers

 
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BY MITCH KULLOS —

The month of May carries with it many things: the onset of better weather, finals, summer break and for many fortunate students, the final step towards the job market — graduation. The May 10 and 11 spring 2013 commencement ceremonies offers figures that have impacted NAU and the community as a whole.

An April 12 press release from the NAU Office of Public Affairs detailed the schedule and background of these four exceptional individuals who will speak at the various ceremonies: Ernest Calderon, Arizona Board of Regents president; Kerry Blume, CEO of United Way; Paul Keim, director of NAU’s Center for Genetics and Genomics and Nancie Lindblom, 2013 Arizona Teacher of the Year.

The press release stated, “Northern Arizona University will award honorary degrees to a dedicated advocate for higher education [Ernest Calderon], a nonprofit leader working to further community initiatives [Kerry Blume], a trailblazer in genetics research [Paul Keim] and an exceptional educator [Nancie Lindblom].”

“These people have done enough in their lines of work and in the community to have impacted Flagstaff and NAU,” Tom Bauer, NAU director of public affairs, said.

Bauer then spoke directly about Paul Keim, known by many for his advancement in the field of genetics.

“This is the first time we have honored a university professor and he is one who is a little different for us,” Bauer said. “He is a former student, professor and a longtime supporter of NAU who is world-renowned for his work in the field of genetics.”

Another speaker that has been overwhelmingly successful and has a rich history with NAU is Ernest Calderon, who is, among many other titles, president emeritus of the Arizona Board of Regents.

“I graduated in 1979 with a bachelor’s degree in political science,” Calderon said. “I was ASNAU president in 1978 and 1979. I’ve served on the NAU alumni association on the board of directors and I currently serve on the NAU Foundation board of directors. I was also a member of the board of regents for eight and a half years.”

Calderon continues to aid in the educational process and encouragement of students to this day. It is clear for the many bonds formed through the years and tireless community service, Calderon was deservedly selected to speak to the graduating class of 2013.

“I’m hoping to share of them some lessons learned and maybe some guidepost to help them have a more fulfilling life,” Calderon said.

While Calderon has been immensely prosperous in his entire academic career, his profession and public life, he still recognized the importance of receiving such an honor to speak at NAU. Moreover, it seemed to be a chance to pass his knowledge down to a new generation of college graduates who would eventually blaze a path into the future.

“It’s a distinct honor. It is something I’m humbled about, and I am really thrilled. I was pleased something like this had happen. I was surprised by the invitation but pleasantly so,” Calderon said.

Another educator who will be speaking at the NAU commencement ceremony is 2013 Arizona Teacher of the Year, Nancie Lindblom. Aside from being a teacher, Lindblom was also awarded the highest honor an Arizona teacher can receive. The Skyline High School social studies teacher also is a member of both the Arizona Council for History Education and the Arizona Council for Social Studies.

“I chose NAU due to my major,” Lindblom said. “I was in education, and I looked at their program and saw that it was better than what I felt the other programs in the state were, but what I loved about NAU was the community up there.”

Lindblom was quite humbled in regard to the honor itself and felt mostly overwhelmed by the recent influx of awards and recognition she was receiving for teaching far beyond the minimal standards of education. Yet, as many wonder, what makes people like Lindblom succeed and achieve so much so quickly.

“Yes, you’re getting a degree and it’s all over, but is not over,” Lindblom said. “I don’t think that learning ever ends, and of course as a teacher, I would specifically say that but if you want to grow in any professional area you have to keep educating yourself. It might not even be a specific, ‘I will go on for my masters or my doctorate,’ but that you’re constantly learning and improving and growing. If you stop right now after you graduate you’re not going to be very successful.”

In the case of Lindblom, both community and a self-motivated drive pushed her to become a stand-out individual in her field. Despite the negativity regarding post-college job numbers, these speakers insist the future is hopeful. With drive, education and commitment, the path ahead is an open book just as graduates close their own texts for the last time.

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