UND Today

University of North Dakota's Official News Source

Winter Commencement 2022: ‘Lead boldly and do boldly’

An historic blizzard proved no match for the can-do graduates and organizers of the event

Despite the campus-closing efforts of Mother Nature, hundreds of UND graduates crossed the stage at the University’s Winter Commencement ceremonies on Friday, Dec. 16.

Due to hazardous weather postponing the previous day’s plans, one graduate and two undergraduate ceremonies all took place on the same day at the Chester Fritz Auditorium.

Even for Fred Wittmann, UND’s now former director of ceremonies and university events, the lineup was quite an unusual twist among the more than 130 commencements he has orchestrated throughout his decades-long career.

Photo by Shawna Schill/UND Today.

For those who may have missed it, UND Today’s Patrick C. Miller in December wrote and photographed a tribute to Wittmann’s 44 years of service to the University. The story included some of Wittmann’s thoughts on what it takes to course-correct a massive event on a last-minute basis.

“Many people don’t realize that when one thing changes, it can create a chain reaction that causes four or five other things to change,” Wittmann said. “It’s the difference between turning a Jet Ski around and turning a battleship around.”

But the battleship did, in fact, turn, and that feature story — which includes many other adventures and anecdotes from Wittmann’s career — is available here.

Fred Wittmann, UND’s former director of ceremonies and university events, closed out his nearly 50 years at the University with Winter Commencement 2022, Wittmann’s 131st commencement. To the right is Brooke Conlin, Wittmann’s replacement and the former senior director of events for the UND Alumni Association & Foundation. Photo by Shawna Schill/UND Today.

Emceed by President Andy Armacost, this winter’s ceremonies featured guest speaker Angie Freeman, chief human resources and ESG officer for logistics giant C.H. Robinson. Freeman earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and a Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education from UND in 1991. Her Commencement Address is reprinted below.

The full ceremonies are available to view via UND’s Commencement website.


Angie Freeman ’91, chief human resources and ESG officer for logistics giant C.H. Robinson, delivered the Commencement address at UND’s Winter Commencement 2022. Photo by Mike Hess/UND Today.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Angie Freeman, a UND graduate who serves today as chief human resources and ESG officer for logistics giant C.H. Robinson, delivered the Commencement address at UND’s Winter Commencement 2022. Her Commencement Address is reprinted below

It is an incredible honor to share this day with you – a day that marks the culmination of years of your hard work, commitment, persistence and belief. I’m thinking about that commitment and the years you’ve spent pursuing this goal. It reminds me of my daughter Lucie, who is now getting ready to embark on her own college career.

Thankfully that time commitment didn’t daunt all of you and get in the way of your belief in yourself, and belief in the power of education. It was a bold decision to take on this challenge and invest in yourself. When a person gets a little farther down this walk of life, like I have, you look back on the journey and you realize the power of certain critical moments – moments that punctuate our journey, that I like to call moments of majesty.

This is one of those moments of majesty. So in honor of that, and of your incredible achievement, please take a moment right now to pause, look around, and take this all in. You did it.

Photo by Shawna Schill/UND Today.

There’s something else I’d like you to do as you soak this all in. And that is to think about the people who supported you, pushed you, inspired you and showed their care for you by believing in you. As President Armacost has shared, this is our year of gratitude. So when you leave here today, please give those people a shine.

I mentioned a moment ago that it was a bold decision to pursue additional education, and invest in yourself. Just like the bold decision made by 8 young people – 6 women and 2 men – to be the very first class of the newly established University of North Dakota, back in 1884, five years before North Dakota was even a state. George Walsh and others, in what was then Dakota Territory, banded together to create a new institution of higher learning. That was visionary, and that was bold. Likely a lot of people doubted them and expected them to fail. But they were undeterred, and they believed, and they persisted.

The threads of their vision and their persistence are now woven together, like a beautiful tapestry — woven through time, through our communities, and because of the impact of this university, across our planet. You now carry those beautiful threads of Kelly green and are part of that bold vision.

Photo by Mike Hess/UND Today.

As important as this moment is, it is also a stepping stone in the great walk we call life. How you now set the tone for the years ahead is what counts. I’d like to spend the next few minutes sharing some thoughts about where you go from here, and how your experiences at UND have equipped you with the strong foundation for a fulfilling, successful, and impactful next chapter.

How can I know this? Well, while I certainly don’t know all of you personally, based on your experiences here, and how you have navigated all of the challenges and the unprecedented events that transpired during your time here, I do know some important things about you.

Here’s what I know. I know that you are resilient and persistent. That you support each other. I know that you are hard working. You are creative and adaptable. You have grit. You’ve taken a long term view and lived the adage, short term pain for long term gain. You are disciplined. And of course, you’ve chosen to go to school and live in a place where the weather tests your mettle. It takes a little ruggedness to live here and endure the cold; it also requires people who understand that we need to look out for each other.

Photo by Shawna Schill/UND Today.

In my career, I have spent a lot of time thinking about talent, leadership, and the ingredients that most consistently lead to success. What leads some people to excel in their field and to make an impact? And more importantly, given all of the changes we are experiencing in our world today, what will it take in the future?

I’m excited to tell you that all of those characteristics about you that I just shared – adaptability, grit, discipline, and resilience — will all serve you well.

Along with all of those traits, I believe there are a few other qualities that are important to success, and more importantly, a joyful and fulfilling life. Here are three perspectives I wish for you.

First: I encourage you to continue your journey from here with a growth mindset. Never stop learning. The world is changing rapidly and today’s knowledge is fleeting. Change will never be slower than it is today. UND has imbued in you critical learning skills — you have learned how to learn. So use those skills you gained here to keep your growth going. Continue to look at the world with fresh eyes and an open mind; listen to others with differing views and perspectives. Be curious.

We are living in a time of incredible advances in medicine, the arts, technology and artificial intelligence, engineering, education and communications, just to name a few. These advances will impact all of our lives and there will be career opportunities in the future that we can’t even imagine today.

Also, keep pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. One of my favorite aphorisms is “A ship is safe in harbor, but that is not what ships are for.” It is bold to stay open to new possibilities and venture into new places. Keep growing.

Photo by Mike Hess/UND Today.

Second: I heard this word relatively recently, and it has really stuck with me. The word is Neighboring. Like “neighbor” but turned into a verb. Humans are social beings — we are meant to engage with each other. Working together has been foundational to our survival as a species and it is literally a physical need. The Happiness Project at Yale has demonstrated that social connections not only make us more content, but can extend our life span and help us fight off disease.

So continue to invest in your social connections and cherish the bonds of the friendships you made here at UND.

Being a neighbor isn’t just about physical proximity. To me, it’s a mindset. By working together, supporting each other, contributing to common goals – by neighboring – we can accomplish more, and we can live a more fulfilling life.

All of this reminds me of the African proverb: If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

It is bold to be open to other perspectives, and to put community before self. Keep neighboring.

And finally, my wish for you is that you continue to see our incredible world, and the promise of humanity’s achievements, with Wonder. Think back to when you were a small child, and how the world was full of amazing discoveries and beauty. From the uniqueness of a snowflake, to the silvery flash of a school of minnows, to the excitement hearing a train whistle as it rumbled through your town. Delight, wonderment, awe and amazement.

We know that awe, or wonder, has a wide range of emotional, social, and psychological benefits. And you can experience those daily moments of wonder by simply having open eyes, an open mind, and an open heart. Just as to the natural world, we can also apply that wonder and appreciation to seeing the beauty of humankind, in the grace we provide to each other, and how we use our knowledge to advance the lives of our fellow humans.

Photo by Mike Hess/UND Today.

It is bold to put cynicism aside; to embrace the beauty of our world and the potential of humankind. Keep wondering.

Even with those three perspectives in mind — growth mindset, neighboring, and wonder, let’s face it: we live in uncertain and somewhat tumultuous times. But we are also living in times of previously unimaginable technological advances and opportunities; of rising standards of living around the globe, and of the discovery of innovative solutions to old, vexing and what used to seem intractable problems.

As the poet Robert Frost said, “freedom lies in being bold.” The world needs new ways of thinking, and new ways of doing. The world needs people who believe in community, in curiosity, in hard work, and in growth. The world needs you. So as you move forward today, to the next chapter of this great walk of life, I hope you do so boldly. Dream, boldly. Act, boldly. Neighbor, boldly. Make a difference, boldly. Lead boldly and do boldly.

Congratulations, UND graduates! I can’t wait to see what you do next.