On June 10, thousands gathered in Magness Arena to celebrate the undergraduate class of 2023—a gathering that seemed impossible just three years earlier, as the then-first year students grappled with the disruption of the coronavirus pandemic.
In his remarks, Chancellor Jeremy Haefner commended the graduates for their resilience. “I know it took hard work and dedication to earn your degrees … but you persevered,” he said.
When commencement speaker Pat Hamill, Daniels College of Business alumnus and CEO of Oakwood Homes, took the stage, the focus shifted to the graduates’ future and the importance of giving. “There is something I need each of you to do,” he said. “Today, I want you to practice giving back.” He went on to announce that he was giving each graduate a gift of $500.
As the stunned crowd cheered, Hamill said, “Keep it if you really need it. Give it to someone who needs it if you don’t. Or combine it with your friends and do something together. … Keep it real and do something that matters.”
Gifts and giving was also a theme at the 2023 graduate commencement ceremony held the day before, on June 9. Hundreds were on hand as the University awarded philanthropist Carrie Morgridge an honorary Doctor of Education as the ceremony’s commencement speaker.
Morgridge, who has served on DU’s Board of Trustees for more than 10 years and heads up the Morgridge Family Foundation, is also the benefactor, along with her husband John, of the Morgridge College of Education.
“[Carrie’s] drive, generosity and vision are truly inspiring, and I’m thrilled she is here to celebrate you all—the next generation of DU alumni committed to serving the public good,” said Chancellor Haefner.
DU Magazine followed up with some undergraduates to see how they’ve used their $500 gifts.
Matthew Logan, a political science major from Canon City, Colorado, went to work after graduation as an intern for Congresswoman Yadira Caraveo from Colorado’s 8th Congressional District. He used the money to purchase birthday gifts for his brother and father and to invest in his financial future. What’s left, he says, will be spent on DU hockey tickets and future business ventures.
“Mr. Hamill’s gift served as an extraordinary reminder to think of others,” Logan says. “Whether directly investing in others or investing in ourselves so that we can contribute to others more effectively in the future, it is important that we give back and help one another succeed collectively.”
Another graduate, Eli Rocke from Neenah, Wisconsin, says he donated roughly half of his gift to the Alzheimer’s Association, in honor of those in his immediate family and other loved ones affected by the disease. The rest, says the political science and international studies major, has contributed to keeping him afloat while seeking work in local or state government in Colorado.
“The gift from Pat Hamill was inspiring and motivating. It was an incredible gesture on an incredible day that I hope left our graduating seniors with more perspective,” says Rocke.