PROVO — For Jesse Cobell and his family, seeing his name printed on the Brigham Young University commencement exercises program is a great sight. It represents years of studying and his undergraduate degree coming to a close.
"I took my last final yesterday," Cobell said. "It doesn't feel totally real yet, it feels like I am just finishing another semester."
But seeing his name in print is nothing new to Cobell, who is graduating in neuroscience. As an undergraduate he co-authored research about new behavior in cancerous tumors in one of the world's most highly cited scientific journal, Nature.
"It was definitely a highlight," he said. "A lot of the highlights I have had in my college experiences have been real world experiences … as we have taken what we've been learning in my classes and then seen how they apply to a real world situation."
Cobell is only one of the many graduates who were awarded degrees Thursday afternoon in the Marriott Center at Brigham Young University.
For a piano duo, graduation was a time to show off all of their hard work. Hilary Heideman Mauler and Tiffany Winkel Delgado recently won the United States International Duo Piano Competition. They performed their award winning number, Lutoslawski's Paganini Variations, during commencement exercises.
Another graduate, BYU football player Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah wasn't able to stand with the other graduates during the commencement exercises because he was invited to attend the NFL draft. Although he was miles away, he still put on a cap and gown while in New York to celebrate earning his degree.
These graduates are only a few highlights of the long list of students awarded degrees. This year's combined winter and spring graduating class at Brigham Young University includes a total of 6001 degrees — 5,081 bachelor's, 724 master's and 196 doctoral degrees.
"As so many of you complete this wonderful phase of your BYU experience, we hope and expect that you will always remember the most important things that you have learned or solidified in your time here," BYU President Cecil O. Samuelson said. He emphasized the importance of keeping and obeying the commandments established by the Savior, making and keeping sacred covenants and always relying on the Savior and his Atonement.
During the keynote address, Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints encouraged graduates to find a balance and choose wisely as they moved forward in the future.
"The choices you make will make all of the difference in what you want to achieve," he said. "With all of these new decisions and challenges before you could I encourage you to seek and find a balance in your future life."
Elder Perry emphasized the importance of finding balance between four specific priorities in life.
Physical, emotional health
"Learn the value of maintaining good physical and emotional health throughout your life," he said. "You will not only live longer, but happier and more fulfilling lives."
"Do things in your spare time that will add to your personal value," he said. "Nothing bothers me more than to see time wasted! Schedule your time wisely and make sure there is always time for family, work, relaxation and reflection."
Financial independence is often talked about, but rarely practiced, he said, pointing out that more and more households are living on borrowed funds to meet their daily needs and wants.
"One of the most important lessons you will ever learn is the security and peace that comes from living within your means. … If you are spending more than you take in, heartache and sorrow are sure to follow unless and until you learn how to live more providentially," he said.
"We teach spiritual strength in our children by offering father's blessings, kneeling in daily family prayer, regularly attending the temple, regularly participating in Church meetings and daily scripture study," he said.
A Christ-centered home will always be a safe haven for children, he said. "We need to teach faith in the Savior in all that we do," he said. "That is the message for our children. That is the message that we have fort he entire world. … Make the gospel of Jesus Christ a vital active part of your life."
That teaching of children does not end at graduation, he said. Because of that, it is important for parents to communicate with their children.
"To both parents and graduates, I encourage you to stay on top of technology so that you can keep up with one another and understand one another throughout your lives. No one should go into technological retirement when their last child leaves the nest — that is when you should be alert and more mentally active — learning new things and preparing yourself for future opportunities to have input in the lives of your posterity."
In addition to the graduates, 12 cadets from the United States Army ROTC were commissioned as officers prior to commencement exercises on Thursday, and nine cadets from the United States Air Force ROTC Program were to be commissioned as officers this morning.
Other speakers at commencement exercises included Michael O'Connor, president of the Brigham Young University Alumni Association, and Conrad Rosenbrock, a graduate.