PULLMAN, Wash. — “The world has changed a lot, and a lot for the better”
since 1962 when he graduated from Washington State University, said John
Fabian during WSU’s 104th annual commencement, Saturday, May 6.
Speaking at one of three WSU commencement ceremonies, the former
astronaut and research executive recounted history since his graduation,
including the end of the Cold War, benefits of space exploration and the
Information Age and higher levels of environmental awareness and
However, “with these positives, there have been negatives.” Fabian wondered
what his WSU commencement speaker, broadcast journalist Edward R.
Murrow, “arguably history’s most distinguished alumnus” of WSU, would
have reacted to “some negative highlights” of past years, including the
Vietnam War, Oliver North and Iran-Contra, President Clinton, “Monicagate”
and the impeachment process, violence in “our cities, in our schools and in our
homes, the drugs, the guns the laws, the lobbyists, and the politicians.”
Fabian encouraged graduating students to know themselves. “Knowing
yourself is a powerful discriminator between those who make it big and those
who don’t,” he said. “Knowing our strengths and weakness, our abilities, our
passions, our motivators, our goals and our strategies is knowing about how
to succeed in business by really trying.”
For the first time in WSU history, three ceremonies were held because of the
growing number of graduates, the popularity of seniors and graduate students
attending graduation, and the availability of facilities. A total of about 3,100
students took part in the ceremonies, held at 8 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. in
WSU’s Beasley Performing Arts Coliseum.
State Attorney General Christine Gregoire spoke at 8 a.m.; WSU regent and
1970 graduate Ken Alhadeff, Seattle business leader and philanthropist, spoke
at 11:30 a.m.; and Fabian, a 1962 graduate who now lives in Port Ludlow, spoke
at 3:30 p.m. WSU President Sam Smith presided over the commencement.
Gregoire urged graduating students to involve themselves in public service
and to always be willing to listen to the ideas of others and to respect other
people and their ideas. “Give of yourself to your community, and always
respect and listen to other people – no matter how different they are from you
– and you will improve your community, your job potential, and most
important of all, your personal satisfaction,” she said.
Ahladeff said he was “too busy” getting on with his life to attend
commencement ceremonies when he graduated in 1970. “I’ve regretted that
decision for 30 years,” he said, thanking the new graduates for letting him
celebrate with them this year.
“You are part of WSU’s greatest victory. You can always say, ‘I graduated, I
met the standards.’”
While this moment in their life will always be special, he said life is a journey,
not a destination. He challenged them to go forth and make a difference.
“There is nothing wrong with America that can’t be changed. You are the
majestic future of the nation. May your journey be filled with hope, kindness,
grace and dignity,” he said.
During the 8 a.m. ceremony, Army Brig. Gen. Barbara Doornink gave the oath
of office to 21 ROTC graduates as Army, Navy and Air Force officers, and then
surprised WSU President Sam Smith by presenting him with “The Outstanding
Civilian Service Medal” from the U.S. Department of the Army. Doornink, a
1973 graduate, was the surprise recipient of a WSU Alumni Achievement
Award, presented on campus Friday, May 5.
The commencement was Smith’s last. He retires at the end of June after leading
WSU for 15 years. During the 3:30 p.m. ceremony he and his wife, Pat Smith,
stood on stage together and waved to the audience in thanks and farewell.
Smith said they “share with all of you a great pride” in WSU which will
“always be a part of us…So, like the students (here) before us, it is time for Pat
and me to graduate.”