EPHRAIM—At the first Snow College commencement ceremony held in two years, students walked across the stage to spirited cheers after being advised to “walk through uncertainty” with confidence.
Families filled the bleachers and spread out in lawn areas at Terry Foote Stadium to celebrate the class of 2021.
Presiding over his first Snow graduation, President Brad Cook touted class as “special” for the adversity it had overcome; and keynote speaker Kristen Cox encouraged the students to use the experience to their advantage.
“Life isn’t certain, as we learned in 2020,” Cox said in a speech encouraging listeners to seek inspiring opportunities and formulate questions that advance them toward their goals.
“Let those [questions] become the crumbs to shape your path,” she said.
Cox is a former executive director of both the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget and the Utah Department of Workforce Services.
She is considered a leading authority on application of the Theory of Constraints, a method of identifying the main factor impeding achievement of a goal, to government and non-profit institutions. She has written two books on the subject.
At age 11, Cox began to lose her sight. This forced her to adapt to a new lifestyle. She attributes that challenge to helping her gain the knowledge she shared with graduates on managing and redefining obstacles.
“You have to learn to walk through your confusion,” she said, echoing a trusted teacher’s words.
She was alluding to an incident when she was dropped off in an unfamiliar public area as part of training to live without her vision.
She described feeling helpless as she bumped into obstacles she could not see. But she said she learned lessons in perseverance when she found her way not only in that moment, but other times throughout her life since.
The college awarded honorary degrees to her and Rep. Francis Gibson, who represents District 65 in the Utah House of Representatives.
President Cook recognized Gibson for his work on a healthcare task force and multiple committees in the House, especially for the advancement of education in the state.
Cook thanked Gibson specifically for playing a key role in the construction of the new athletic training center south of the stadium.
Between ceremonies on the Ephraim and Richfield campuses, the college awarded 1,205 degrees in total to 1,102 graduates.
The two- and four-year degrees included 855 associates of science; 88 associates of arts; 44 associates of science in nursing; 25 associates of science in business; 23 bachelor of arts in commercial music; 17 associates of pre-engineering; 13 associates of applied science; 12 associates of fine arts; 10 bachelors of science; and 92 certificates of completion.
Earlier in the commencement, Tanner Edgington, the valedictorian representing two-year programs, spoke to the audience.
Edgington, a native of Perry, Utah, took the audience through his experience at Snow, from his first moments on campus as a high schooler to saying farewell then and being there on stage.
He had reservations during his first visit to Snow, he said. He observed that Ephraim was a small town. He couldn’t even pick up service on his cell phone.
In the end, the nursing and pre-med student said he came to love the rural living, especially spending time in the natural areas nearby.
He will continue studying at Weber State University in hopes of becoming a nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant, and he wants to work in a rural area.
“Reflect back on the challenges that strengthened you and made you a better person,” he told graduates.
Amanda Drake, the valedictorian representing four-year programs, spoke at the Richfield commencement, which took place the day before.
From Kearns, Utah, she earned a bachelor’s degree in music, studying the flute and piccolo. While at Snow, she played in a variety of ensembles and groups, and played a concerto accompanied by the Snow College band.
She met her husband at the college, and the couple welcomed a baby boy in 2020.
Drake and her husband plan to move to Cedar City, where she plans to teach flute lessons while caring for her son.