About 250 students crossed the stage on Saturday morning to receive their diplomas at the 2021 fall semester Commencement exercises at the University of Montana.

The Commencement speaker on Saturday was UM alumna and the first woman from Montana to rise to the rank of a brigadier general, Colleen McGuire. She was presented with an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters by UM President Seth Bodnar.

McGuire delivered the Commencement address and spoke of her remarkable career in the U.S. Army.

“For me, my degree was the ticket to see the world, and I did,” said General McGuire. “Two weeks after graduation, I was in Anniston, Alabama learning to be a military police officer. Five months later, I was living in Germany, on my first of many disappointing assignments that shaped me as a leader and a person. And I say disappointing as they were not the assignments I desired, but the positions that ultimately contributed to my success.”

McGuire said even though she faced difficult assignments, she treasured the people she served with.

“I loved working with smart fit selfless young people who served for various personal reasons, but who all saw the service as an opportunity,” she said. “I loved working in an environment where there were laws, regulations and policies that were followed and enforced. I love the mission and the greater purpose it served our nation.”

She assured the graduates that hard times would without question come their way.

“Will you experience hard times and disappointments? Absolutely,” she said. “Will you encounter negative workplace environments toxic leaders, individuals who just plain don't like you? Of course, but will you fall victim? Never.”

She encouraged the graduates to take the good with the bad and cherish life.

“Hardships are a staple of life,” she said. “That's why the good times are all that more sweet. And today is one of those good times. You earned that seat in this ceremony, and it will be worth it. To quote a young, fiercely independent woman who is the wonderful mother of my two grandsons and my beautiful daughter. Misery makes memories. We remember the crucibles, so never shy from a hardship.”

In closing, she reminded the graduates to cherish their time at UM and hold Montana dear.

“In the military, it's lead, follow or get out of the way,” she said. “Any of those, just take your choice. Don't forget where you came from. Whether you realize it or not, the University of Montana will always be your family and Montana in your DNA. Now go out there and show the world what we're all about. Congratulations and Go Griz.”

Brigadier General and now Doctor Colleen McGuire.

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