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Lakeland College awarded 891 graduates their diplomas on Sunday during the college's 150th commencement. The college used the occasion to kick off its year-long 150th anniversary celebration, and graduates and their families dodged the rain drops while celebrating their own educational milestone.
Lakeland awarded diplomas to 603 undergraduates and 288 graduate students. They heard from Jeff Skiles, the co-pilot who helped successfully land the "Miracle on the Hudson" flight on the Hudson River in January of 2009, who delivered the college's commencement address.
Skiles recalled the events of that fateful day that took him from being an unknown airline pilot to a completely different path in life. He told the audience of close to 4,000 people that is shows how quickly life can change, no matter how well you think you're prepared.
"We all have an inner voice that can lead us un-erringly to where our place in the world should be, if we take the time to listen," Skiles said. "No one can tell you what the right path is, but your inner voice will always ring true."
It was the final commencement for Lakeland President Stephen Gould, who is retiring at the end of May. Gould came to Lakeland in 1970 as a German instructor, and served the college for 42 years in numerous administrative roles before being named Lakeland's 14th president in 1998. The college announced that Gould had been named professor emeritus of German, the highest rank for a retiring faculty member.
"There are no individual accomplishments in presidencies; they're the work of many hands," Gould said. "My fate has always been in the institution itself and the people here. I think we have a terrific staff right now, and I would put this faculty up against any small college faculty in the country.
"I found in Lakeland's mission a purpose for my life. I found it especially purposeful to be involved in the lives of those students, whether they were traditional age or found their stride a lot later in life. That's given me a sense of meaning for the things that I do."
The college kicked off its 150th anniversary celebration during Sunday's ceremony. The college plans a series of special events to mark the milestone, highlighted by an All-College Reunion set for June 21-24.
The college announced the winners of two major awards at Saturday night's graduation banquet, which drew approximately 750 people.
Ben Koepsell of Cedar Grove won the Clarence H. Kohler Campus Senior Award, and Cory Johnson of Scandinavia won the Robert W. Lope Award.
The Koehler Award goes to the full-time student at the main campus who qualifies academically and who best exemplifies Lakeland's spirit through engagement in campus activities and exemplary commitment to the Lakeland community.
The Lope Award goes to the Kellett School graduate who has shown unusual persistence, dedication and commitment in the course of earning their bachelor's degree.