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Commencement speaker delivers old, new, borrowed and blue

May 7, 2011

Larry Miller makes a point during his speech for Chadron State College's undergraduate commencement ceremony. (Photo by Daniel Binkard) Larry Miller makes a point during his speech for Chadron State College's undergraduate commencement ceremony. (Photo by Daniel Binkard)

Retired broadcaster Larry Miller of Spearfish, S.D., used a common wedding theme while delivering Chadron State College’s commencement address Saturday. The 1969 CSC graduate highlighted many of his alma mater’s attributes while offering the graduates “something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue.”

For “something old,” Miller spoke about the institution’s rich history and gave mention to a list of prominent past faculty and staff members. Among the names were Ross Armstrong, Beatrice Koch, Don Burkhiser, Bernard Donahue, Ed Nelson, Margo McCawley, Lyle Andrews and Harry Holmberg.

"Several of the buildings across campus bear their names. That’s a nice legacy, but that honor pales when compared to the enormous personal legacy they and other faculty passed along to thousands of young men and women over the years," he said.

In delivering "something new," Miller told about the many changes at CSC and how it's grown.

"Of course, Chadron State College has always provided a solid foundation in basic education, research, teaching skills, and the like. But there’s so much more now, and much of it might astound graduates from the 1930s and ’40s," he said. "Courses in criminal justice, American Indian studies, library media and health professions. Graduate programs have expanded significantly. And then there’s the whole new world of online accredited courses. That can surprise even some of us from the 1950s and ‘60s. Degrees in programs ranging from business and education to mathematics and applied sciences in technical occupations. All online. It’s a new world."

He also mentioned the institution's fundraising campaign, Vision 2011, which is scheduled to wrap up this fall.

"It’s an initiative that will result in more scholarships, new and improved facilities for athletics, as well as wildlife management, veterinary science, and rodeo programs," he said.

A commencement speech by the late Fred Rogers, the star of the Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, provided material for Miller's "something borrowed."

Just as he had seen "Mr. Rogers" do at a Penn State University gathering, Miller prompted the audience to a moment of a silence for the graduates to think about the people who have helped them along the way.

"Some of those people may be with us today," Miller said. "Some may not. Wherever they may be, if they’ve loved you and encouraged you -- they’re still with you."

Graduating from a smaller school where you’re considered an individual -- not just a number -- is a benefit that’s a no-brainer. But it becomes even more important when you discover, and you will, that the quality of your education is not just “competitive” with other schools. It usually exceeds them.

Miller earned a Bachelor of Arts in history from CSC and a Master of Science in journalism from Iowa State University in 1974. With more than 40 years of broadcasting experience, he’s had jobs from radio announcer and television news anchor to news director and station manager. He had senior management positions with the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority, South Dakota Public Broadcasting and Mississippi Public Broadcasting. He retired in 2004 as president of the Pennsylvania Public Television Network.

During his career, Miller also taught broadcast journalism at Oklahoma State University and – while heading Mississippi Public Broadcasting – served as president of Mississippi EdNet Institute, a consortium of educational agencies operating a statewide wireless network for learning services.

In recognition of CSC’s centennial, Miller opened his address by speaking about the institution’s first commencement address. By researching copies of the Chadron Journal, he discovered a brief account of the speech by Dr. I.F. Roach of the State Normal Board. The speech, delivered in a wooden building along Highway 20 known as Loomer Hall, was described in the newspaper as a protest against shams. It was titled “The Real Thing.”

“I found it interesting that shams were a problem even before there was an Internet or television," he said.

Miller also spoke about Roach's speech in closing, and offering the audience "something blue."

"Let me suggest that Dr. Roach’s commencement address nearly a century ago about 'The Real Thing' aptly described what you take with you today from Chadron State College," he said. "It’s true blue. The real McCoy. The Real Thing. Not just a diploma -- but a quality education from an outstanding school, Chadron State College."

—Justin Haag, CSC Information Services