PHOTOS and VIDEO: Spring Commencement 2023
Hundreds cross commencement stage to receive UND degrees during Saturday ceremonies
Both the floor and the stands — all the way to the nosebleed sections — were filled to the brim Saturday afternoon as the University of North Dakota honored its 2023 graduates during Spring Commencement ceremonies in Grand Forks’ Alerus Center.
More than 1,100 undergraduates were eligible to walk across the stage to shake hands with the president and receive their bachelor’s degrees during the afternoon ceremony. Earlier, about 600 students were eligible to receive their master’s or doctoral degrees in a separate morning graduation ceremony. Together, it was UND’s largest number of eligible graduates since 2016.
Three-time UND graduate and North Dakota Poet Laureate Denise Lajimodiere was the keynote speaker for both ceremonies. The award-winning poet, artist and retired educator of 44 years shared a message of personal perseverance and resilience with the students. Readers can find a transcription of her speech — plus a YouTube link to it — in a separate post today.
This year’s Chester Fritz Distinguished Professors Steven Light and Kathryn Rand received special recognition during the morning ceremony. Light, professor of Political Science & Public Administration, and Rand, Floyd B. Sperry Professor of Law at the UND School of Law, are the co-founders and co-directors of the Institute for the Study of Tribal Gaming Law & Policy at UND. The pair are regarded as the leading and most prolific academic experts on Indian gaming law and policy. Their work has helped to lay the legal foundation for a multibillion-dollar industry that significantly has improved the economies and quality of life for American Indian communities.
A third special guest at the Saturday ceremonies was 1968 UND alum Werner Nistler. The entrepreneur, philanthropist and namesake of Nistler College of Business & Public Administration, was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters degree. Nistler founded Touchmark, a company specializing in developing and operating retirement communities. He and his wife, Colleen, now vice chairperson of the company, provided the $20 million lead gift for the construction of the new school. Their generous gift was matched by the state of North Dakota, and more than 100 other donors and friends also supported the $70 million fundraising goal.
Guests at commencement ceremonies Saturday were treated to pre-ceremony music by pianist Brent Hermans and the University of North Dakota Wind Ensemble, conducted by James Popejoy and Graduate Conductor Juanita Caballero Casas. Kylar Moltzan sang “America the Beautiful.”