UW-Parkside Grads ‘Well Prepared for the Journey Ahead’
President Rothman encourages graduates to be intentional and proactive in making a difference
As the Fall 2023 graduating class at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside earned their diplomas on Saturday, they heard words of wisdom from their classmate, Phoebe Hillery, the Chancellor’s Award recipient. “Just be present.” She quoted David Bayles saying, “Fears arise when you look back, and they arise when you look ahead.” Hillery encouraged her fellow graduates to strive to always be present in the moment and enjoy the journey of life.
“If I had known getting straight A’s meant speaking at graduation, I might have gone back and gotten a ‘B’ or two,” Hillery joked. She thanked her family and friends for their unwavering support and credited the communication department with preparing her for the future.
Hillery was recognized during UW-Parkside's commencement for graduating with dual majors in Sport Management and Communication, two minors, (Public Relations, and Digital Media and Production), and a Sales certificate. Her academic engagement spans programs from three different colleges and she was a member of UW-Parkside’s women’s soccer team for three years. Later, she acted as the UW-Parkside women’s soccer Director of Operations.
Phoebe has interned for over 2,000 hours with multiple organizations. She was the volunteer coordinator for the Wisconsin Marathon and helped coordinate 150 people for race day. Phoebe also helps raise and train puppies to become companion or emotional support dogs with the VIP Service Dog Foundation. She has also assisted with the RootPike WIN garbage clean-up of the Pike River and coaches youth soccer.
Prior to Hillery’s speech, Interim Chancellor Scott Menke welcomed the graduates, their families and guests. Chancellor Menke spoke about the importance of making plans but being adaptable and ready for life’s many surprises. “Is the interim Chancellor telling you not to make plans? Not at all,” Menke said. He acknowledged the importance of planning, but also the need to expect the unexpected. “Be ready to take advantage of opportunities that come along,” Menke encouraged.
Menke encouraged the graduates to be open to new experiences and learning from the unexpected opportunities that arise. “The more you learn and the more experience you gain, the more valuable you will be to your organization,” Menke said.
Universities of Wisconsin Regent Kyle Weatherly delivered congratulations at the ceremony. He recounted his experience as a member of the search committee for UW-Parkside’s next chancellor. He noted UW-Parkside unique and diverse population. “Parkside looks like America,” Weatherly commented. Regent Weatherly was the founding CEO of Frontdesk, a short-term housing provider started in 2017. Today, Frontdesk operates in 35 cities with greater than $40 million in revenue and more than 300 employees.
Commencement speakers usually impart some words of wisdom to the graduating class. When Jay O. Rothman, President of the Universities of Wisconsin took the podium for his keynote address, he imparted four pieces of advice on the graduates.
“I offer to each of the graduates my sincere Congratulations. Your University of Wisconsin- Parkside degrees, which are so much more than that piece of paper, are the culmination of years of hard work, long hours of study and so many sacrifices by you and those that care for you. Well done!” Rothman stated.
Rothman served as the Chairman and CEO of the law firm of Foley & Lardner LLP from 2011 - 2022, has been a member of the firm’s Management Committee since February 2002, and has been a partner of the firm since February 1994. He joined Foley in October 1986, after receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree from Marquette University and a law degree from Harvard Law School.
“Take charge of your own life and be intentional and proactive in making a difference,” Rothman told UW-Parkside graduates. Rothman’s first tidbit of wisdom was to “Find your purpose. Your greatest job going forward will not be finding a job or commanding a high salary. I submit to you that your greatest challenge may be finding your passion and your purpose in life.” He asked graduates to think about their legacies and how they will be remembered by others.
Rothman serves as a director of Quad/Graphics, Inc. (NYSE: QUAD) and Mayville Engineering Company, Inc. (NYSE: MEC). He also is actively involved in the community, including as a director of Junior Achievement of Wisconsin and the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce. Rothman was raised on a small operating farm outside of Wausau where his family raised beef cattle and horses. He has two adult children. His daughter is a graduate of UW-Madison.
Rothman’s second piece of wisdom was “Define what success means to you,” President Rothman said. “A whole lot of people are going to tell you what success is, but I urge you to look inward, get to know yourself, understand yourself and figure out what you want your life to look like and mean,” Rothman explained.
The third piece of advice Rothman shared was to “Be resilient in the face of life’s challenges,” Rothman said. “Life is a marathon and not a sprint. There will always be ups and down and what matters is how you handle that journey. Learn from things when they do go the way you expect,” he said. President Rothman praised UW-Parkside students’ perseverance and ability to seize the opportunities in front of them.
Rothman left the Fall 2023 graduating class with final words of wisdom, “Embrace your daily routine and practice expressing gratitude.” He told graduates that even when experiences trials and roadblocks they should be grateful for what they have and what makes them happy. “Finding gratitude is a powerful force for happiness and should not be underestimated,” he advised. He emphasized the importance of helping others and making a positive difference in the world.
President Rothman concluded by reminding graduates to always give their best and face challenges head on. “Please remember that opportunity is earned, not just granted. You are ready to meet whatever challenges come your way,” he said.
Enjoy photos from each of our ceremonies. Check back as more photos are uploaded.