Be thankful. Be humble. You didn't get here alone. Those were words of advice heard by the Class of 2013 at Washington State University Tri-Cities' commencement.
Almost 300 newly minted graduates donned robes and caps Friday afternoon and marched into the Toyota Center in Kennewick as the Tri-Cities Big Band played Pomp and Circumstance.
It was the first of what will be a series of college and high school graduations throughout the Mid-Columbia in coming weeks.
There are 417 students in the class. Seven earned doctoral degrees and 92 received master's degrees.
Paraphrasing an old saying, James Pratt, interim chancellor of WSU Tri-Cities, said, "if you see a turtle sitting on top of a fence post, it did not get there alone. Neither did today's graduates."
Then he invited the graduates to stand, wave at family and friends, and thank them for their support.
About 15 graduates stood when Pratt asked if they'd served in the military. About 40 graduated with honors. About 50 are raising children at home. Almost everyone was employed while earning their degrees.
"You've worked hard at your jobs and school these past years and I have just one thing to say -- it's not going to get easier," Pratt said. "Graduates, work hard to follow your passions."
Sarah Sederburg, 22, of Richland, said it took five years to earn her mechanical engineering degree. She worked at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory while attending classes, first at Columbia Basin College, then at WSU Tri-Cities.
"But PNNL was very supportive," she said. "I worked because I paid for school myself. I'm proud and excited to graduate."
Keynote speaker Wayne Martin said his own college graduation was even more important to his extended family than it was to him.
"It's not all about you," Martin said. "Remember today's hugs and handshakes and take time to thank the people who helped you along the way."
Martin, the interim chief operating officer for PNNL's National Security Directorate, told the graduates to keep in mind that growth trumps money, to choose the path that's best for them as a person, to cherish relationships and to consider what lasting impact they want to make on their family and the community.
"Remember," Martin said, "learning is a lifelong pursuit; be open to new knowledge."
He closed with a quote from the tortoise Master Oogway in the movie Kung Fu Panda, "the past is history, the future a mystery and today is a gift. That's why it's called the present. What now?"
Chancellor-designate H. Keith Moo-Young briefly took the podium and said he's excited about joining WSU Tri-Cities, and looking forward to becoming part of the Tri-City community. He becomes chancellor June 1.
Pratt also presented Benton County District Court Judge Joe Burrowes with the Distinguished Alumnus Award. Burrowes graduated from WSU Tri-Cities in 1994.
Burrowes was chosen, Pratt said, for his unflagging support for WSU Tri-Cities, the community and his distinguished career on the bench.
"Joe doesn't stint when it comes to giving," Pratt said.