Fort Lewis College hosted an outdoor commencement on May 14 under a bright blue sky to celebrate nearly 500 graduating seniors. Thousands of friends and family members filled up FLC’s Ray Dennison Memorial Field with love and raucous applause for the Skyhawks.
President Tom Stritikus, Trustee Alan Hill (Political Science, ’78), Assistant Professor of Political Science Ruth Alminas, Student Body President Iyahna Calton, and actor Gary Farmer addressed the graduates.
President Stritikus reflected that graduation is his favorite day and that this one was especially sweet after a year that was not without its challenges.
“Watching you pursue your passions, your dreams, gave us hope that no matter what we faced, your sense of compassion and optimism could win the day,” he said. “At times when the year seemed a little complicated, watching you do your work was just a great source of joy for us.”
Calton shared these sentiments, acknowledging that her peers triumphed over some trials to get to graduation day. She also acknowledged how daunting the current global circumstances feel to the new graduates. However, despite the uncertainties, she commended them for finding the success and growth necessary for life beyond FLC.
"As you ready to move on to the next step in creating a beautiful life for yourself, need not forget that in all the chaos that is life, to live as though happiness and success are already within you, no matter your title, job, or location. The weight of the world is on our shoulders. While it’s hard to deny the darkness that surrounds us, we should also celebrate the intense passion, diversity, and light that exist within us."
“As you ready to move on to the next step in creating a beautiful life for yourself, need not forget that in all the chaos that is life, to live as though happiness and success are already within you, no matter your title, job, or location,” Calton said. “The weight of the world is on our shoulders. While it’s hard to deny the darkness that surrounds us, we should also celebrate the intense passion, diversity, and light that exist within us.”
Gary Farmer was this year’s commencement address speaker. Farmer is an actor and musician born in Ohsweken, Ontario, within the Six Nations of the Grand River. In his career spanning four decades, Farmer originated the role of Zachary Jeremiah Keecheegeshik in the original production of Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing for Theatre Passe Muraille, Native Earth Performing Arts, and eventually the Royal Alexander Theatre, all in Toronto. Recent credits include series regular on Resident Alien for NBC Universal/SyFy Network, Reservation Dogs for FX/Hulu, The English for BBC/Amazon (September 2022), and several independent films. Farmer is also the founder of Aboriginal Voices Radio Network.
Farmer’s commencement address focused on Indigenous values, creation, and lifelong learning. “I went to college for five years and never received a degree; I did not do very well. All of what I’ve told you so far, I learned beyond my time in college and university education. All I’m saying is that there's a lifetime of learning ahead of you all.”
Farmer found a lifetime of success as an actor, director, producer, writer, and musician. Speaking directly to the graduates starting a new journey to change the world, he asked them to consider living a life that is good for all humankind. “I had to diversify my skills to survive and to pull a nation of Indigenous people with me. You see, our way is if I go, we all go—we go together.”
After Farmer’s speech, President Stritikus awarded him an honorary bachelor’s degree from FLC.
In addition to Spring 2022 graduates, students from 2020 who graduated via virtual ceremonies walked in this year’s in-person ceremony. Graduates received Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, and Master of Arts in Education degrees, as well as certificates in Pre-Health, Geographic Information System, and Digital Marketing.
A recording of the ceremony is available on Facebook at facebook.com/fortlewis.