US Secretary of Agriculture to speak at 2022 commencement

The 135th Utah State University commencement ceremony will welcome US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack as a guest speaker.

“Secretary Vilsack has been a strong supporter of land grant universities like Utah State and has advocated for bringing science, research, agricultural technology and other types of resources to help with the challenges that he sees through his position,” said Emilie Wheeler, the USU news director and member of the Commencement Steering Committee.

Vilsack is also being awarded with an honorary doctorate degree as a recognition for his work in agriculture and how it has helped USU.

Along with Vilsack, Lisa Eccles and Lyle Hillyard will receive honorary doctorate degrees.

Lisa Eccles is the president and operating officer of the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation, a non-profit philanthropic foundation that gives grants to organizations all over Utah to promote areas such as education, health care and the community.

The Eccles Foundation has made donations to several USU programs and campuses, including the Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services.

Lyle Hillyard was a Utah senator for 36 years and is now a practicing attorney.

“He supported a lot of programs that have received funding both through the legislator and through other means, like the college of education and human services and our extension programs,” Wheeler said.

Hillyard advocated for state funding for the Matt Hillyard Animal Teaching and Research Center in Wellsville, which was named after Hillyard’s son after its construction.

These figures go through an extensive voting process before being selected for degrees, starting with the USU Board of Trustees.

The board accepts nominations for figures to honor with degrees in the fall, then they decide who to honor and who will speak during the ceremony.

The president’s office then presents those names to the faculty senate and formally invites the nominees. Nominees are usually considered according to their connection to USU.

Vilsack will give his speech at the graduation ceremony alongside USU President Noelle Cockett, provost Francis Galey and a student speaker who is selected out of all the colleges’ valedictorians.

But according to Heidi Kesler, chair of the Commencement Steering Committee, the commencement is a lot more than just the graduation ceremony.

“One thing that a lot of students don’t realize is that there are two days of events on the Logan campus and about three weeks of events throughout the statewide system,” Kesler said.

Each of the Statewide Campuses have a separate ceremony, but Logan’s events start on May 5.

Students will line up on the Quad in front of Old Main dressed in their regalia and then march to the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum in a procession led by Cockett, Vilsack and bagpipers.

The graduation event in the Spectrum will feature musical numbers by USU chamber singers and orchestra groups, the posting of the colors from the ROTC, and “The Star-Spangled Banner” performance from a vocal senior performance.

Cockett will then confer the degrees, inviting the candidates from each college to rise one at a time to receive their degree.

On May 6, every college will hold their own convocation ceremonies where students will have the opportunity to receive their diploma cover in a more intimate setting with their peers.

“We are so excited to be back to a more traditional commencement and convocation event,” Kesler said.

Featured photo illustration by: Phil Weber

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