Gail Miller related a recent back surgery to the importance of flexibility and moderation while moving through life during Utah State University’s graduation ceremony Thursday.

"Be willing to bend, but be reasonable when you bend," Miller, the owner of the Larry H. Miller Company, told the 4,510 students receiving degrees at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum on the Logan campus.

According to the university, 7,471 degrees will be conferred to 6,897 students in the system statewide. The youngest graduate in the class of 2024 is 17 years old, according to Provost Laurens H. Smith, and the oldest is 73.

Miller gave students advice based on her decades of business experience and philanthropy, saying one of the guiding principles of the Larry H. Miller Company has been "be a student, be a teacher, be a leader."

"It's a cycle, a repeating process that's interchangeable," Miller said. "Lead with love, and success will follow." According to Miller, successful leaders "love those they work with. They serve and they elevate."

Miller, whose foundation donated $2.5 million to the Huntsman School of Business, received an honorary doctorate degree during the ceremony, along with Bruce Carlson, a retired general in the U.S. Air Force now on Lockheed Martin's board of directors. Carlson is chairman of the USU Space Dynamics Laboratory board of directors, and "he generously supports nearly every area of campus," according to the program.

Darren Parry, former chairman of the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation, grew emotional when he received an honorary doctorate in education, and a standing ovation, for his decades teaching Native American history and sustainability across the state.

The event was extra special for new USU President Betsy Cantwell, who celebrated her first graduating class since her appointment in August 2023. To the students, she said, "I hope your life is one of a learner, of an informed and engaged citizen."

“I feel an incredible sense of hope for the future, for the state, for the nation, for the world,” Cantwell said. “Thank you for giving me that hope.”