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A good day to graduate

New Hampshire Union Leader

May 09. 2015 6:04PM
Natalie Moreno, waves to family as her brother Jeremy Tejada graduates during the morning graduation for Southern New Hampshire University held at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester on Saturday. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)

MANCHESTER - Southern New Hampshire University President Paul LeBlanc took a moment to recognize the diverse group seated in front of him before getting on with commencement ceremonies and bidding farewell to the Class of 2015.

While some of the graduates Saturday enrolled in SNHU right out of high school, many others took less traditional routes that led them all to Verizon Wireless Arena on Saturday morning.

"It's an amazing mix of people in this room. I couldn't be more proud to be part of this with you today," LeBlanc said. "You're amazing, we're proud and there's no better group of graduates."

LeBlanc was just getting started with the first of three commencements. SNHU had to stagger the ceremonies to accommodate the growing pool of graduates and limited seating for all their guests.

The morning ceremony was mostly for undergraduates and a handful of master's and doctoral students. A second ceremony for the College of Online and Continuing Education graduate students was in early afternoon, followed by a 5 p.m. celebration for the Online and Continuing Education undergraduates.

In all, SNHU expected to award more than 6,650 total degrees, including 3,826 to undergraduates. Last year, SNHU was able to send off the Class of 2014 in just two ceremonies.

The first degree Saturday was an honorary doctorate of letters given to Carly Fiorina, the Republican presidential candidate who spent much of the week campaigning in the Granite State. Fiorina, the former CEO of tech giant Hewlett-Packard, delivered a 15-minute speech tailored to the graduates, offering some pointers from her own experiences with only a mention or two of her candidacy.

"I went through my story very quickly because my story is not what is important today," Fiorina said. "Your stories are important today."

Fiorina acknowledged she couldn't remember who was the featured speaker when she graduated Stanford in 1976.

"I'd like to make this as painless for all of you as possible so that you can get to what you really came here for, which is the confirming of degrees and the celebration," she said.

Fiorina said she received a great education at an acclaimed school, but her major of medieval history and philosophy was hardly a direct path toward corporate leadership and a run for the presidency. She went to law school, but was miserable and dropped out after a semester.

Fiorina worked as a receptionist at a real estate firm, which she said actually became a launching point for her career because her bosses noticed the effort she was putting into the job and saw potential for her to do more.

"Don't wait for the perfect job. Just get a job - any job," she said. "And when you get that job, do it well because when you do a job well, people notice. And when people notice a job well done, opportunity will knock."

Some of the graduates already had their own experiences of post-college life and enrolled at SNHU to study something else.

Amber Sutton of Rindge was getting her associate's degree in baking and pastry arts 10 years after graduating from the University of New Hampshire with a bachelor's degree in English.

"It's a career-change thing," Sutton said. "Basically, I love decorating cakes, and I wanted to do something that was more artistic than an office job."

Sutton already has a job. She is the pastry chef at the Mile Away restaurant in Milford, where she did her internship.

She was sitting with friend Jaclyn Gale of Concord, who also got her associate's in baking and pastry arts but wasn't sure where it would lead her.

"It's going to be a fresh start," she said.

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