More students than ever in Sacramento State’s 71-year history were crammed into the downtown Golden 1 Center this weekend to graduate in the university’s first three-day commencement ceremony.
Thousands of graduates walked across the arena’s stage to shake President Robert Nelsen’s hand and receive a scroll between Friday afternoon and Sunday evening, with over 9,000 eligible to walk, according to the university.
“We are a united, inclusive Hornet family and the degrees that you will receive today are the completion of you, your familes’ and your partners’ dreams,” Nelsen said on Friday. “Yes, I know there was a lot of stress ... but the fire burned inside of you and today you taste the sweet taste of success.”
In eight different ceremonies spread out over the weekend, students who completed their degrees in fall 2018, this spring or who will complete them in summer 2019 were recognized in a combined ceremony. Sacramento State stopped offering winter commencements after December 2017, opting instead for one spring ceremony.
Nelsen made several special recognitions during the ceremonies, including students with challenging circumstances, community servants and slain students.
Deputy, fraternity brother given posthumous degrees
Sacramento County Sheriff’s Deputy Mark Stasyuk, who was killed in a shooting while on duty on Sept. 17, 2018, was presented with a posthumous degree on Friday.
He had entered the university in the business program, but changed his major to criminal justice, Nelsen said. He had been taking classes while he was working with the sheriff’s office. Stasyuk, 27, was shot and killed at an auto shop in Rancho Cordova.
“Mark represents the best of the Hornet family and we are proud to call him our alum,” Nelsen said. “His service and his ultimate sacrifice for the safety of our community can never be forgotten.”
The degree was given to Stasyuk’s family, who was in attendance.
Will Molina, a student who died on April 12 in an off-campus pellet gun shooting, was recognized by Nelsen on Saturday, who presented a posthumous degree for him as well.
The business major was a member of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity and was active in intramural sports on campus, Nelsen said.
“His education was extremely important to him and Will was a driven and diligent student,” Nelsen said. “He is remembered for his big heart and kind spirit.”
Honorary doctorate for community service
Marlene Marie von Friederichs-Fitzwater, a retired Sacramento State professor, was granted an honorary doctorate in humane letters on Friday for her work in community health.
In 1989, von Friederichs-Fitzwater founded Joshua’s House, a Sacramento-area project that seeks to create a hospice for terminally-ill homeless people, and also served as a professor at UC Davis, where she worked in developing support programs for cancer patients, according to Sacramento State.
The hospice is anticipated to open in the fall, Nelsen said.
She named the hospice after her grandson, Joshua Lee, who died of a drug overdose while homeless in Nebraska in 2014.
“She was inspired to do what she could to ensure that terminally ill homeless men and women are not left to die on the streets without a bed,” Nelsen said.
Pardoned convict walks
Tammy Marie Linn walked in her commencement ceremony Sunday with a degree in psychology after being pardoned by the former governor of California, Jerry Brown, in December 2018.
She had previously served time at the Sacramento County Jail and at the California Rehabilitation Center for drug offenses, theft and fraud, and served out a total sentence of one year in prison plus over a year on parole before being discharged in May 2009, according to gubernatorial records.
Linn, who was illiterate at 28 and learned how to read behind bars, graduated at age 42 with a 3.46 GPA and has been active in the university’s program for previously incarcerated students, Project Rebound.
“She is a champion for others,” Nelsen said in a prepared statement. “She’s trying to move forward, and that makes her exceptional.”