The Charles Koch Arena at Wichita State University was packed Sunday as graduates, their friends and families filled the arena for the university’s 116th fall commencement.
In the far upper rows, Leonard Joven stood with other family members, cameras at the ready, as 800 graduates came marching into the arena to the strains of Verdi’s “Triumphal March.”
They were waiting for Ronald Joven, his brother, who was receiving his doctorate in mechanical engineering.
There was waving and a loud roar from the Joven family when Ronald finally received the doctorate hood, WSU challenge coin and diploma.
Could Leonard Joven have been just a little proud?
“Yes, for sure,” he said. “I am from Colombia, you know, in South America. I came here on Thursday just for his graduation and go back to my country on Wednesday. I am on this one-week trip just to see him receive his title. I feel he is very smart – smarter than me.”
Among the graduates were Alex and Emily Cannata – a brother-and-sister team who are both graduating with degrees in accounting.
They are the second generation of Cannatas to become accountants. Their father also is one.
“I tried out a couple of classes in high school,” said Alex, who was a 2009 graduate of Bishop Carroll. “When I got to college, I decided to make that my major. I liked every class I’ve ever taken.”
Emily is a 2010 graduate of Bishop Carroll.
As Anthony J. Vizzini, WSU’s vice president for academic affairs, spoke the crowd, he said the graduation ceremony is part of the university’s process.
“Our role as a public research university is to provide each of our students the foundation for life-long learning and the foundation for their careers,” Vizzini said.
Robba Moran, a member of the Kansas Board of Regents, congratulated both the students and the faculty.
“I’d like to congratulate you and let you know how proud we are of your accomplishments,” Moran said. “The members of the Board of Regents are some of your best advocates in promoting the value of the degree you are receiving today. ... I am especially honored to meet with you at Wichita State University. I would like to express my appreciation to the faculty. You have dedicated your careers to giving students the tools that they need to be successful in life. ... I know you are underpaid and often stressed to the max. Please know that the Board of Regents appreciates all you do to help us accomplish our goals in making higher education a success here in Kansas.”
She also asked the graduates to consider staying in Kansas.
“Our state of Kansas needs you,” Moran said. “You can make a significant impact on our economy and on our state quality of life by pursuing your life goals right here at home. We will do our part at the regents to continue the excellent reputation of Wichita State University. Best wishes to each of you. Congratulations on your impressive accomplishments. I am confident it is the first of many great successes for the class of 2013.”
In the audience, Jenifer and Joe Sauer and their four children waited for the names of two of Jenifer’s sisters to be announced: Christine and Diana Weixlman. One sister was receiving a bachelor’s degree and the other a master’s degree, both from the school of education.
“It is an important family tradition for us,” Jenifer Sauer said.
Just as important was Sunday night’s big celebration.
“Mom has a big party for them,” she said.
They won’t be the only graduates celebrating.
Leonard Joven said Sunday night that he, too, would be joining his family in celebration.
“We are going to have some wine and make a toast for his (Ronald’s) graduation,” he said.