“Golden Grads” celebrate 72nd commencement with Class of 2019

“Golden Grads” celebrate 72nd commencement with Class of 2019
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The Class of 2019 is joined by Missouri Southern’s first graduating class for the university’s 72nd commencement. The “Golden Grads” took the opportunity to share words of wisdom from 1969 as a record-breaking group of graduates takes their next step forward.

It’s been awhile since these Lions celebrated graduation day.

“50 years ago, I was in the same place you’re in,” said key speaker Lt. Col. Barbara Bevins.

This “Golden Grad” became a lieutenant colonel, now retired from the air force after teaching ROTC in Texas, while Karen Heath taught music in Joplin.

Both will tell you they’re just as excited to be here as they were all those years ago.

“A lot of people are the same, we’re just a little older,” Heath said with a laugh.

A little older, and a little wiser, passing on advice: “Just stick with a goal and keep working towards it, and you’ll receive what you need,” said Heath.

It’s something the Class of 2019 appreciates.

“You know, they mentioned, 50 years from now, we may be back here…and I thought that was super inspirational,” said Nina Johnson, an elementary education major.

A record breaking 935 degrees walked across the stage, many going into the hands of non-traditional students like Johnson, a mother of three.

“It doesn’t matter what your situation is, doesn’t matter how old you are, how young you are, kids, no kids, just work hard, go for it, and you can do it.”

62% of the 2019 class is a first generation student, the first person in their family to receive a diploma, something educators are proud students have accomplished. Dr. Alan Marble explained the tassle is literally worth the hassle.

“Over your working lifetime, a person with a bachelors degree will earn a million dollars more than someone with just a high school diploma. So, just in dollars and cents, it’s really worth it, plus the value that it adds to your life,” said Marble.

While much has changed in the last 50 years, one thing remains the same on graduation day: the feeling of accomplishment and hope for the future.

“They need to strive for their future and their goals,” said Heath.

53 students earned a masters degree.