SOU Commencement: good weather and optimism

Sid DeBoer honored with honorary doctorate in humane letters

June 18, 2024

SOU’s 98th Commencement Ceremony on June 15 centered squarely on those receiving about 1,300 bachelor’s and master’s degrees – and on the recipient of a rare, honorary doctorate in humane letters. Sid DeBoer, who guided Lithia Motors from a single dealership in Ashland to the largest automotive retailer in the U.S., was honored for his business and civic accomplishments, and his longtime friendship with SOU.

“Lithia is one of just two Fortune 500 companies based in Oregon, and the only one without a swoosh as its logo,” SOU President Rick Bailey said, drawing a laugh from the crowd in his introduction of DeBoer.

The chair of Lithia’s board of directors – modestly referring to himself as a “used car salesman” – then encouraged the day’s other degree recipients to use what they have learned to take action and make their mark on the world. “It’s your moment every day when you get up,” DeBoer said.

Graduates and the near-capacity crowd at SOU’s Raider Stadium cheered and applauded throughout the 2 ½-hour ceremony – from the remarks by student speakers Edward Minasian, Emilio McCutcheon and Mimi Pieper through the awarding of diploma covers to the hundreds of new graduates who individually walked across the stage, shook hands with Bailey and posed for photos.

The graduates were asked to return to their seats after receiving degrees, to support those who followed them to the stage, and most did. The weather cooperated, with cooler-than-normal but dry conditions throughout the event.

Provost and Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs Casey Shillam, emceeing her first SOU Commencement Ceremony following her hiring early this year, pointed out that many of the day’s graduates missed out on their high school commencements when the COVID-19 pandemic broke out four years ago.

“Many of those walking today were denied that honor four years ago,” she said.

Pieper, one of the three student speakers and also a student member of the SOU Board of Trustees, told her classmates that the uncertainty of life “is what makes it an adventure.”

She was the only woman graduate in the Computer Science Program, receiving her bachelor’s degree with a GPA of 3.95. Pieper tutored fellow students in computer science and math, and also served as SOU’s Student Sustainability Coordinator.

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