PLYMOUTH - Gov. Maggie Hassan and former University System of New Hampshire Chancellor Stephen Reno expressed feelings of pride and optimism for the 1,200 graduating students at Plymouth State University's 143rd Commencement ceremony Saturday.
But they had both a clear message for the graduates: Please stay home.
"I extend congratulations," said Reno, "and I hope that at least 55 percent of you will stay here and start your careers in New Hampshire."
Reno, who was honored with the Granite State Award for exceptional contributions to New Hampshire is now executive director of Leadership New Hampshire, was referring to his "55% Initiative" to retain 55 percent of the state's college graduates in the state.
He and other government and education leaders are concerned about the trend of students leaving New Hampshire once they graduate from the state's colleges.
Hassan began her congratulatory remarks by asking for a moment of silence for slain Brentwood police Officer Stephen Arkell, but then picked up Reno's theme.
"Steve Reno and I have something in common," she said. "We both want you to stay here."
"The investments you have made in your education represent an investment in your community and your state. . The Granite State has so much to offer you at each and every step of your way."
Plymouth State alumnus Stephen J. Sedensky III was the commencement speaker. A nationally recognized child abuse prosecutor, he said he was pleased to return to his alma mater. He graduated in 1980.
He told graduates to be "purposeful, persistent and grateful."
"Have a plan, have a focus, have a vision," he said, telling the graduates not to be afraid to fail. "If you are not failing occasionally, you are not trying hard enough. Learn from your failures and file them under 'experience.'"
The Class of 2014 president, Kayla Grimes of Pike told fellow students to remember to do "the little things, like saying I love you," in their lives.
An honorary doctorate of science was given to Massachusetts Institute of Technology scientist Hugh Miller Herr, one of the world's leading bionic limb researchers who walks on two artificial legs, having lost his legs while ice climbing on Mount Washington in 1982.
"Today, I stand here with only artificial technology touching the stage," he said to standing applause.
"There are no obstacles that cannot be overcome," Herr said.
"We must not accept human disability. In this century, we will allow the paralyzed to walk . and we will free humanity from devastating brain conditions like depression." firstname.lastname@example.org