3 Jul 2017

365 Reasons to Celebrate

365 Reasons to Celebrate

Author: Wings  /  Categories: Campus, Wings  / 

The Yakima Sundome was filled with emotion as several thousand family and friends filled the seats to watch their loved ones graduate from Heritage University in May. All totaled, 362 students completed their studies at the university this year and earned their bachelor’s or master’s degree.

Nobel Peace Prize recipient and Heritage University associate professor for pre-engineering, Professor Michael Durst, served as the keynote speaker. Before joining Heritage in 2014, he spent 40 years in the nuclear science and technology industry. His work took him around the globe to collaborate on some of the most important nuclear projects of our time, including the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, which was then part of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist B.A Republic of the Soviet Union.

Michael DurstIn the mid-90s, Durst joined an international team working with Russian scientists to improve Ukraine’s power system. Eventually he became the project manager for an international team in Slavutych, Ukraine, that designed a new, safe confinement structure for the destroyed Chernobyl. In 2005, Durst and others in the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts to help rid the world of materials used to make weapons of mass destruction.

2017 Graduates

During his address, Durst called on graduates to remember some of the simple lessons learned throughout their lifetimes as keys to happiness.  “Love one another. Tune into people for who they are, not for what they appear to be. Accept that you will make mistakes in life at times. Take time to enjoy life. Don’t be afraid to ask for someone’s help when you need it or to offer your support to others when they need it. Smile. And lastly, believe in yourself,” he said.

In addition to the keynote address, Heritage presented two alumni with the Violet Lumley Rau Outstanding Alumni Awards. Undergraduate recipient Elizabeth Nason, J.D. (B.A., Interdisciplinary Studies, 1985) is the Yakama Nation Administrative Director. She was the first Yakama woman to earn a law degree and to be licensed to practice law in Washington State. Cydney Bacon (M.Ed., Counseling, 2000) is a school counselor at Toppenish Middle School where she works with children and their families to help them navigate the education system, advocate for their children and set up education plans so that their children’s needs are met and barriers to learning are removed.

2017 GraudationThe university also announced the recipients of the Board of Directors’ Academic Excellence Award, which is given to undergraduates who completed their degrees with a perfect 4.0 GPA, and the President’s Council Student Award for Distinction, during the ceremony, which is given to a single student who has both an exemplary academic record and who has been of service to the university community during his or her time as a student. This year’s Academic Excellence Award recipients were: Alfredo Arroyo (education), Christina Bailey (social work), Yaquelin Balderas (social work), Perla Barrigan (social work), Sarah Benson (social work), Teanna Bentley (business administration), Kathryn Durst (visual arts), Stacy Fangman (education), Brittany Harper (education), Mariela Johnson- Lopez (early childhood studies), Alyssa Loar (education), Esmerelda Lopez (social work), Maribel Luna (social work), Jessica Sadler (education), Krystalina Sanchez (education), Cassandra Simpkin (social work) and Liliana Strong (education). The President’s Council award recipient was Felisa Gonzales (psychology).


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