HANCOCK - Finlandia University graduated its Class of 2014 Sunday, and Philip Johnson wanted those students to know he appreciated them.
Johnson, Finlandia president, said during the graduation ceremony in the Paavo Nurmi Center he knows what hard work is involved with getting a university degree, and thanked students for sticking with it.
"Thank you for the hard work," he said. "Thank you for persistence in the face of adversity."
Kurt Hauglie/Daily Mining Gazette
A portion of the 2014 graduating class at Finlandia University waves to the crowd during commencement ceremonies Sunday. A total of 115 graduates received degrees or certificates.
Johnson told the students their selflessness has enhanced the university.
"You have made Finlandia a better place," he said.
Johnson also thanked the people who supported the students during their time at Finlandia, including family, friends and neighbors. He told the children of the graduates to be aware of what their parents have just accomplished.
"You should be so proud of what your mother or father has done," he said.
The alumni speaker was Eric Sauey, who graduated from Suomi College in 1975. Sauey is the president and CEO of Seats Incorporated, which makes seats for vehicles other than cars. The Wisconsin-based company has more than 400 employees.
Sauey said although the students have been making choices most of their lives, the choices they make after graduation may take on greater significance for them because they can go one way or another.
"Most of life's decisions are binary code," he said.
Sauey said there are many versions for each choice, and he warned students to be wary of getting into too many habits.
"Habits give us a warm fuzzy place," he said.
Sauey said emotion can get in the way of making intelligent choices.
"Success lies in making more good choices than bad choices," he said.
Attending Finlandia was a good choice for the graduates, Sauey said.
"When you leave here, you will leave with a smile on your face," he said.
Speaking for the students was Kelsey Norz, who graduated with a 3.931 grade point average and a bachelor's degree in graphic design.
Norz said most of the students graduating had at least one instructor or professor who personally affected them in a positive way. That personal relationship was possible because of the size of Finlandia.
"There's something very special about a small university," she said.
Norz told the graduates to reflect on the time they spent at Finlandia and appreciate the discipline they learned while attending.
"Do not look at this as the end of your learning experience," she said. "When we persevere, we can achieve our goals and dreams."