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Editor's Note

1) In addition to the typical commencement information contained in the top section of this news release (basic facts, honorary degree recipients, posthumously awarded degree), the "What's in a name" component, developed by Justin Bannister, has some fun Q&A content based on his interviews with the three NMSU commencement "name readers." Please consider running that as a sidebar with the main commencement article.

2) More information about the honorary degree recipients was sent out on April 17. That NMSU news release can be found at http://newscenter.nmsu.edu/news/article/8551/




More than 2,200 slated to graduate during NMSU spring commencement ceremonies

According to the registrar's office, 2,215 New Mexico State University students are candidates for bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees this semester. Of these, approximately 1,500 are expected to participate in commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 12.


Three young women posing for smartphone picture one of them is taking
Three friends snap a pre-commencement photo of themselves with a smartphone outside NMSU's Pan American Center in December 2011. (NMSU photo by Jay A. Rodman)

The morning ceremony, scheduled for 9 a.m., will include undergraduate and graduate degree candidates from the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, the College of Education, the College of Engineering and the College of Health and Social Services. The 2 p.m. afternoon ceremony will include candidates from the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Business and the College of Extended Learning.

Both ceremonies will take place at the university's Pan American Center.

Judy Gray Johnson and Bill Sheriff will be recognized with honorary doctor of letters degrees at this year's commencement. Johnson, who has had a distinguished career in public accounting, private industry and local government, has made many generous contributions to NMSU over the years. She and her husband, Michael, have supported academic initiatives in three of NMSU's academic colleges. Sheriff, a 1965 graduate in mathematics, has been a business executive for nearly five decades. He is currently in his sixth year as CEO of Brookdale Senior Living, the nation's largest senior living company.

Sheriff and Johnson will receive their honorary doctorates at the morning and afternoon ceremonies, respectively.

One degree will be awarded posthumously. Ryan Hyatt, a 2007 graduate of Deming High School pursuing a bachelor's in surveying engineering, died last summer following an accident on the family ranch. His degree will be accepted in his memory by his fiancee, Jessica Lynn McDonald. This will take place during the morning ceremony, as she receives her own degree in elementary education.

Steve Frank is a professor in the surveying engineering program who had Hyatt in several classes and was also involved in his academic advising. He remembers Hyatt as a student who was well-liked by other students in the program.

"He was one of these quiet kids who sit in the back of the room," Frank said. "You don't necessarily expect too much of those kids, but Ryan was an exceptional student. He was confident and had good things to contribute to class discussions."

Hyatt had been inducted into Lambda Sigma, the national honor society for land surveying and geomatics students, in April 2011.

Hyatt's family has established two NMSU scholarships in Ryan's name, according to Patricia Sullivan, assistant dean in the College of Engineering. "One will support a student majoring in surveying engineering and the other is for a student majoring in communication disorders."

No tickets are required for guests attending commencement ceremonies. The Pan Am Center will open an hour prior to each ceremony and seating is available on a first come, first serve basis. Guests requiring special assistance should call 575-646-4413.

In order to avoid traffic congestion, graduates are advised to arrive at the east side of the Pan American Center an hour before their ceremony to pick up their name cards. Arrowhead Drive will be closed to traffic between Triviz Drive and Stewart Street.

Media covering the event should pick up media passes in the coordinating center tent in Lot 32 east of the Pan Am Center. Staff will be available at the tent throughout the ceremonies.

For full information, including a map with designated parking areas, visit the NMSU commencement website at http://www.nmsu.edu/commencement/.

What's in a name?

For many years, NMSU has relied on three individuals to read the names of the graduating students as they participate in the commencement ceremony: Bob Nosbisch, Jack Nixon and Carrie Hamblin. Knowing how important is it to students to have their names read accurately, these commencement name readers staff a booth prior to each ceremony where the students can stop by and clarify the correct pronunciation of their names. Justin Bannister, senior communications specialist in University Communications and Marketing Services, recently asked the three about their experiences over the years.

Bob Nosbisch, Senior Program Specialist, NMSU College of Health and Social Services
Reader for the past 22 years
Photo: http://photo.nmsu.edu/scripts/viewImage.php?id=90500

Q. What's your best guess of how many names you've read at commencement ceremonies?

A. I have co-read at every commencement since fall 1990, except one, so that makes 42 commencements so far. If each co-reader averages around 400 names at the fall ceremony and 800 at the spring one, then that would make about 25,200 names since I started. (That's hard to believe!)

Q. About how many students visit you before commencement to make sure you correctly pronounce their names?

A. To be honest? Not enough. Ironically, some of the students with the easy names come by because they think they have to stop by while many with the tougher names do not stop by.

Q. What's the most difficult name you've ever had to read?

A. I know there have been a lot of them. What's fun is when a co-reader or I will get a string of difficult names in a row and we hear the audience "oohing" and "aahing." Sometimes, we'll even be applauded.

Q. Do you have any rituals for commencement?

A. Between the time I get that list and the actual day of commencement, I will read the entire list out loud at least twice and preferably three times. I go through the entire list in case my co-reader gets sick or something else happens that would make me the only reader. (Fortunately, this has never happened.) This allows me to flag the names that may really look difficult so I can pay a little more attention to them.

Q. What's the most interesting thing you've seen at commencement?

A. Sometimes I'll meet a student who will say, "You read my name when I got my bachelor's degree, too." One of these days I'm sure I'll read a student's name and he or she will say, "You read my father's (mother's) name, too, when he (she) graduated.

Jack Nixon, Voice of the Aggies, play-by-play announcer
Reader for the past 16 years
Photo: http://photo.nmsu.edu/scripts/viewImage.php?id=40342

Q. How did you get started doing this in the first place?

A. The Registrar's Office asked me.

Q. What's your best guess of how many names you've read at commencement ceremonies?

A. I have no idea.

Q. About how many students visit you before commencement to make sure you correctly pronounce their names?

A. Not as many as need to.

Q. What's the shortest name you've ever read?

A. Ng (ing)

Q. Are there names most people have never seen that you now know how to pronounce by heart because you've seen them so often?

A. Maybe. I took Latin and French in high school and Russian in college so I am more familiar with western languages and how words and names are pronounced.

Q. What name (or particular dialect sound) do you have the most trouble with?

A. English

Carrie Hamblen, Executive Director, Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce
Reader for the past 12 years
Photo: http://photo.nmsu.edu/scripts/viewImage.php?id=94084

Q. What's the longest name you've ever had to read?

A. I would say many of the names of students from India are significantly long and challenging, given the frequency of consonants in their names. I think I've had one name that was about 20 letters long with very few vowels. Those are the individuals that I hope come to the reader's table before the ceremony because I really want to say their name right. It's their day, after all and I feel it's my duty to make sure they are recognized.

Q. What's the shortest name you've ever read?

A. Many of the Asian names are short. I think the shortest one was five letters total, first and last name included.

Q. What's the funniest thing that's happened to you while reading names?

A. I read a name for a graduate and as she walked across the stage, I realized it was one of my closest high school friends. We had lost contact since graduating from high school and saw each other for the first time since as she walked across the stage. We reconnected after the ceremony.

Q. What name (or particular dialect sound) do you have the most trouble with?

A. I think the names from China, Korea and Japan are still the most difficult for me. I'm getting more familiar with them, but depend often on Bob's background to help me with those names.

Q. What's your favorite part of commencement?

A. One of my favorite moments is when the President asks the family members, friends, and others to stand and be recognized for their support of the students. I always love that part because I felt the same about the people who supported me through school and wanted to recognize them. I think it's a great time for the graduates to realize how they got to that very moment and be proud of their successes and be thankful for their loved ones.