MINNEAPOLIS — Family, friends and colleagues cheered as more than 200 graduates received their diplomas from Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota and its Schools of Graduate and Professional Programs on Sunday, Jan. 19 in Minneapolis.

Peter Kuhnly '13 addresses the crowd at this weekend's commencement.

Peter Kuhnly ’13 addresses the crowd at this weekend’s commencement.

The commencement exercises were one of three Sunday Commencement Convocations held throughout the year at the Twin Cities campus of Saint Mary’s University. It was a chance for the adult learners to receive recognition, share stories and receive their diplomas directly from Brother William Mann, FSC, president of Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota.

“I applaud you for finding your way to this moment,” Brother William said. He also encouraged the graduates to help make the world better — in the workplace, at home and elsewhere.

Brother William referred to leaders in history as great inspirations for ethical leadership, including Martin Luther King, Jr., John F. Kennedy and Nelson Mandela. He reminded the graduates that Mandela attributed education as the most powerful ‘weapon’ to change the world. “I’m inviting you to be a part of that change,” Brother William added.

Other speakers at Sunday’s commencement were four graduating students who reflected on their individual journeys.

Patrick Aminga Nyakundi, who received a B.S. in Allied Healthcare Management, spoke of his long, arduous educational journey that included a path from Kenya to the United States in 2001 and on to graduation from Saint Mary’s in 2013.

Fellow graduate Jacqueline Mahon, who received a Master’s of Business Administration, told her story of how Saint Mary’s helped her complete an MBA after returning from a military tour in Iraq in 2010.

Peter Kuhnly, who earned a B.S. in Business Administration, spoke of his long road toward a degree — one that had been in the works for more than a decade. After becoming frustrated with higher education, Kuhnly worked in banking but knew he needed to go back to school.

“I’d run through the list of excuses now, but none of them are really worth repeating,” Kuhnly said. “My parents continued to nudge me about going back to school, and I knew they were right. If I was going to maximize my opportunities, I needed my degree.”

Julie Whitford, who received an M.A. in Counseling & Psychological Services, spoke about the encouragement and mentorship she received. She mentioned that she graduates from Saint Mary’s with a renewed confidence and new relationships formed with staff and peers alike.

The 2013 graduates — including Saint Mary’s first fully-online graduate student — celebrated their educational accomplishments together at the post-event receptions. They shared hugs and congratulations with family members, faculty and classmates who had now become fellow Saint Mary’s alumni.

It was evident in their faces — they’re prepared for the next step. One graduate took a leap toward matrimony and proposed to his girlfriend at the reception … she said yes!



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