PULLMAN, Wash. — Washington State University Board of Regents President William Marler urged the university’s newest group of graduates to show leadership in helping to maintain opportunities for future generations of college students. 

“When one of you stands here 20 years from now, what will higher education look like? Will it be better because of your involvement? Will you show leadership now? Or will you let someone else do nothing at all?” Marler asked the audience assembled for fall commencement ceremonies at the Beasley Performing Arts Coliseum Saturday (Dec. 13). 

About 600 graduates took part in the ceremonies. This was the third year that WSU has held a fall commencement. 

Marler cited the diminishing level of per-student state support for higher education, which is occurring at the same time that demand for higher education is rising. Marler said the state must begin to heed the recommendations of the 2020 Commission, which concluded in 1998 that Washington will need places in higher education for 100,000 more students by 2020. 

“That is over two new WSUs and one new UW combined,” Marler said. “This increase is not just the ‘baby boom echo,’ but a shift in the need for a higher education that fits the growing knowledge-based economy.” 

Marler discussed ongoing efforts on a state level by education groups to place an initiative on the ballot in 2004 to raise money for K-12 and higher education. 

“Today, you rightly need and deserve to bask in the honor of working hard and accomplishing this part of your education,” Marler told the graduates. “But I also believe that we all need to ask ourselves what we can do to protect and enhance our, and the public’s, investment in education.” 

“If it is not you, then who? If not now, then when? Leadership is in your hands. It is up to you to decide what to do with it,” Marler said.

Marler was appointed to the Board of Regents in 1998, and is now serving his second term. He is a partner in the law firm of Marler Clark in Seattle. While a student at WSU, Marler served as a member of the Pullman City Council and was the youngest person and the first student ever elected to this office. He received bachelor’s degrees in political science, economics and English from WSU in 1982, and a law degree from Seattle University in 1987.

Jesse Aspuria, president of the Associated Students of WSU, also addressed the gathering.

“The number one thing you can take from today is the accomplishment of receiving a diploma,” Aspuria told the graduates. “You have learned, and have received an education that no one can ever take from you.” Aspuria urged his fellow students to maintain their personal ties to their fellow students and their alma mater in the years ahead as well.

WSU President V. Lane Rawlins presided at the event.