Chancellor draws on lessons learned from two lives for commencement address

Former chancellor, student cited; nearly 1,400 receive diplomas in three ceremonies
Nick Super celebrates during his walk across the Johnson Fieldhouse stage to receive his diploma. / UW-Stout photo by Brett Roseman
Doug Mell | May 7, 2018

University of Wisconsin-Stout Chancellor Bob Meyer drew on the lives of two very different people — the late Chancellor Emeritus Charles W. Sorensen and Nick Nelson, a freshman who died this year — to illustrate courage, serving others and being grateful, while delivering his eighth commencement address Saturday, May 5, in Johnson Fieldhouse.

A total of 1,146 undergraduate students received bachelor’s degrees and 233 Graduate School students received master’s and doctoral degrees in three ceremonies.

Sorensen, who served UW-Stout as chancellor for 26 years, died in February of complications from a stroke.  Nelson, from Mondovi majoring in computer science-game design, died of complications from muscular dystrophy in March.

Chancellor Emeritus Charles W. SorensenMeyer said of Sorensen, “He’s a big reason why UW-Stout is a widely respected university today, why we have an incredible 98.2 percent employment rate for graduates and why we’re known as Wisconsin’s Polytechnic University.”

Meyer pointed out many changes that took place under Sorensen, including new and renovated buildings, the laptop program for all students and doubling the number of academic programs.

Nelson, Meyer said, “faced life’s toughest challenges and didn’t complain. He embraced the challenge. Even with his physical limitations, he thought of others.

“Today, as you leave this hall, I hope that you will think about Chuck Sorensen and Nick Nelson. Consider how valuable their lives were, albeit in very different ways. But there is no template for life, is there?” Meyer said.

He then quoted the ancient Greek philosopher Epictetus, who said: “It's not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”

Nick Nelson“How will you react to the opportunities and obstacles in your life in the years to come?” Meyer asked. “Will you be courageous enough to try to change the world, like Chuck and Nick?”

Meyer told the graduates they “have been exposed to many people and ideas here at UW-Stout,” adding, “leverage this experience. Listen to your colleagues and peers carefully, accepting their differences and respecting their points of view.”

Meyer concluded by advising the graduates to “share your ideas and thoughts civilly and professionally” and “be grateful for others in your life. Be grateful for people like Chuck Sorensen and Nick Nelson — who dared to dream big and dared to take on life in hard mode, at the highest levels.”

During the morning ceremony, Meyer asked members of Nick Nelson’s family to come onto the stage and presented them with the first Stouthearted Award for the courage and perseverance that Nelson exhibited. The morning ceremony also featured six graduating Army ROTC cadets taking the Oath of Office. It is the first time the oath has been part of a commencement ceremony at UW-Stout.

Chancellor Bob Meyer presents John and Sheila Nelson the Stouthearted Award for their late son, Nick Nelson.


Deans of the colleges presented the diplomas. Patrick Guilfoile, provost and vice chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs, welcomed the graduates and presided over the ceremonies. Mesa Covill, senior alumni officer, welcomed the graduates into the Stout Alumni Association.

Music was provided by the university’s Symphonic Band and Jazz Orchestra, directed by Aaron M. Durst. Choral selections were performed by the university’s Symphonic Singers and Chamber Choir, directed by Jerry Hui.

More information is available here.



Chancellor Emeritus Charles W. Sorensen

Nick Nelson

The parents of Nick Nelson, John and Sheila Nelson, receive the first Stouthearted Award from Chancellor Bob Meyer.

Related News

All News

Chancellor updates faculty, staff to begin new year, semester

UW-Stout Chancellor Bob Meyer kicked off the 2019 spring semester at 8:30 a.m. Monday, Jan. 14, when he welcomed back faculty and provided updates on issues.

Pathways Forward donations top list of 2018 university news

The announcement of two major donations as part of a capital campaign has been named the top news story of 2018 at University of Wisconsin-Stout.

Retired instructor receives honorary doctorate at commencement exercises

University of Wisconsin-Stout awarded an honorary doctorate degree to a former instructor during commencement ceremonies Saturday, Dec. 15.