UW-Whitewater students graduate, begin another chapter in life

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Andrea Anderson
Saturday, May 17, 2014

WHITEWATER—Life is like the children's chapter books where you can shape the course of events and endings, Tracy O'Mara, UW-Whitewater student speaker, told the Class of 2014 in the Kachel Fieldhouse Saturday afternoon.

Jump to page two for college.

If you want to study abroad, flip to page 12.

Want to be a part of Greek life? Turn to page 16.

As for all the mistakes on the way—don't ignore them. Use them to shape your future successes, she said.

“Only you have ultimate control over your story,” O'Mara said. “Benefit from failure and take control of your destiny. If you don't love something, change it. If you're bored, challenge yourself.”

O'Mara said she wouldn't recognize the timid freshman she was if she saw her again.

She grew up on a dairy and beef farm in Grant County. When she first came to UW-Whitewater she didn't know how to fall asleep with the city noise. And she didn't know what to do when the streetlights flashed yellow after 10:30 p.m.

But she took a risk, came to a bigger place, and graduated Saturday with a major in communication.

“Experiment, take risks, make mistakes, reflect,” O'Mara said. “Make it an adventure worth living.”

'It's weird'

Ross Shillinglaw graduated Saturday with a marketing degree.

His height made it easy for friends and family to spot him, but so did his black gown decked out in various sashes and ropes symbolizing his fraternity, cum laude status, and various school organizations.

“It's weird stepping across that stage,” Shillinglaw said fifteen minutes before the ceremony began.

He only had one word for his college experience—amazing.

“I've gotten involved in so much,” he said. “But it'll be tough leaving because I'm losing a good chunk of friends.”


Across the lobby were Megan Skupien and her mother, Dawn Langmade

The two were working to position Skupien's cap perfectly before Skupien needed to dash up the stairs and get in the procession line.

Rushing to the bathroom and wiping her eyes, Skupien was at a loss for words.

“It was quick, so quick,” Skupien said about her college experience.

When she saw the line for the bathroom a few seconds later, she and her mother decided to turn a window into a mirror.

“I'm nervous, I'm excited,” Skupien said about graduation and beginning the next chapter in her life. She majored in communication sciences and disorders. She plans to be a speech pathologist and work at an elementary school.

Her fondest memories are of her and her Delta Zeta sorority sisters, she said.

“I'm going to cry, I'm so emotional,” Skupied said waving her hand to her face as her mom handed her a bobby pin.

“It's emotional saying goodbye,” Langmade said.


Three out of the five years Ben Kenyon attended UW-Whitewater, he and his wheelchair basketball teammates won the Intercollegiate National Championships.

On Saturday, he had another victory and is looking forward to many more as a financial advisor.

“I'm glad it's done,” Kenyon said. “It was good, and I enjoyed my time here at Whitewater.”

His mom, dad and sister said he is too humble about his accomplishments.

“I love bragging about him to my students,” Katy Kenyon, his sister who is a teacher, said. “Not only is he awesome, he is goal oriented and did athletics during college.”

His mother, Darla Kenyon, nodded in agreement and said she is proud of her son.

“I'm really glad,” Darla said. “It's one goal down.”

Closing words

“Congratulations graduates on closing this chapter of your life … Now go write another story worth remembering,” O'Mara advised her classmates as she brought her speech to a close.

And her classmates cheered.

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