Ogden • More than 15 years ago, Trevor Hicks-Collins graduated from high school with honors and waiting scholarships.
"I decided to throw all this away to chase my dream of becoming a rock star. You can see how that worked out," the Weber State University student told fellow graduates gathered Friday under the dome of the Dee Events Center.
He did start a family and his own business, but lost it after a crash with a drunken driver ruined his back. Hicks-Collins slipped into depression over the course of many surgeries to fix the damage.
At the age of 32, the Clearfield resident and father of three, along with his wife, began classes at Weber's Davis campus. Among the 2,578 students earning degrees Friday, Hicks-Collins is graduating magna cum laude with a major in psychology and a minor in child development.
"To say Weber just gave me an education would be an understatement," said Hicks-Collins. "Weber taught me how to push myself beyond my limits."
Weber earlier awarded another 1,421 degrees at its winter commencement.
Friday's ceremony, Weber's 139th, is the last to be conducted by President Ann Millner, who plans to retire after 10 years at Weber's helm. As is her custom, Millner asked graduates to stand if they worked through school (nearly all rose from their purple and red seats) and if they are first in their family to graduate from college (about half).
Hicks-Collins, who plans to pursue a graduate degree in developmental psychology, is an example of the key virtue celebrated by Friday's commencement speaker, business executive Mark DeYoung.
Persistence is the true stuff of success, according to DeYoung, president and CEO of Alliant Techsystems Inc., better known as ATK. The aerospace and defense company, headquartered in Minneapolis, has 18,000 employees in 22 states and abroad. DeYoung said education, talent and genius can't replace persistence in achieving success.
"Failure is the path of least persistence. The world is full of educated derelicts," he said, not to mention talent that goes unrewarded. But education is indispensable in today's world, where technological innovation has eliminated many jobs that involve repetitive tasks.
"Today's generation must run just to keep up in an increasingly competitive world. Weber has put you in the starting blocks for this race," said DeYoung, who now holds an honorary doctorate from the school that awarded him his business degree 30 years ago.
Flourishing in this economic environment requires graduates to be intellectually resilient, scientifically literate and ethical.
"In today's media world, we're witnessing exponential advances in information sharing and community dialogue, but we're also seeing increasing rudeness, disrespect and open misconduct," said DeYoung, whose keynote brimmed with lessons from business and advice for his fresh fellow alumni.
On the road of life, take only occasional glances in the rearview mirror, he counseled them.
"Spend a majority of your time looking through the windshield, be focused on what's ahead," he said. "Strike a balance in your life. Ensure you experience a variety of dimensions. Don't get caught up in one thing that you lose sight of the bigger picture."
For graduate Amy Kunzler, cheered by her three children, ages 7, 9 and 10, what lies ahead is getting a job in a Davis County elementary school. She returned to college three years ago after a divorce, seeking a degree in education.
Kunzler graduated with a near-perfect GPA and no debt thanks to grants and scholarships. "It has been a challenge with late nights and everything else. Homework doesn't get done until after bedtime," she said.