“Graduates, you are definitely in a very special group. You have shown the world, yourselves, and your families, that you have the discipline and fortitude to finish the job in spite of all odds, including COVID! This is certainly a time to tell you, ‘job well done.’”

These words of praise were shared with Upper Iowa University’s (UIU) 2021 graduates by commencement speaker Roger Mangan as part of UIU’s three in-person commencement ceremonies at Harms-Eischeid Stadium in Fayette Saturday, May 8.

A native of Chicago, Illinois, Mangan graduated from UIU in 1962 with a bachelor’s degree in history and minors in political science and French. The four-time Peacock letter winner compiled a 33-2-2 career record and won Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championships at 147 pounds in 1959 and 1960. Mangan started a 16-year teaching and coaching career in Fredericksburg, Cresco, Bettendorf and Estherville, Iowa.  He later became an educational consultant for the Mississippi Bend Area Education Agency in Davenport, Iowa, before moving to Littleton with his wife, Alice, and two daughters in 1976.

Roger and Alice have been married for 55 years and enjoy time with their family, traveling and working in their successful State Farm Insurance office. Alice, a Maynard, Iowa, native, earned a physical education degree at UIU in 1961.

“Please allow me to share a thought, a concept, with all of you present today,” Mangan said. “Imagine your time here at UIU as going up an escalator. The escalator is designed to take you to the next level, not only in school or your careers, but in life. The education you acquired here is going to offer you an exciting future, it will allow you to open doors to opportunities not now known to you and give you time to explore, to try new things, and to help you achieve your dreams.”

Earlier, when welcoming those in attendance to the ceremony, UIU President William R. Duffy praised the graduates for serving as a testimony to UIU’s motto – “We change lives, one student at a time.”

“Having said that, I encourage all of you to continue to set goals in your life, never be afraid to fail, provide solutions—not problems, make a difference, change a life, and pay your success forward for others,” Duffy said.

Approximately 450 students were recognized for earning their respective undergraduate or graduate degrees during UIU’s 164th Commencement ceremonies. Receiving the Csomay Honors Program medallions were Jayde Blue, a business marketing and management major from West Union, Iowa; Alyson Carroll, an instructional strategist II for BD/LD/ID K-12 major from Oswego, Illinois, and Kaitlin Niedert, an elementary education major from Independence, Iowa.

Before her death, Barbara (Rankin) Csomay, class of 1946, established UIU’s Csomay Honors Program. To be accepted into the Honors Program, students must have at least a 26 ACT score and at least a 3.5 high school grade point average. Students admitted to the Honors Program in any given year take the same courses as their fellow honors students. Each course generally is interdisciplinary and team taught, with active, participatory learning. All honors courses require extensive, integrated, advanced writing skills. Seniors complete both an honors project and a thesis in their area of interest. Extracurricular experiences – such as service learning, attending professional conferences and other special events – are an integral part of the program.

“Today you have achieved for what many of you is the biggest goal of your life and you have every right to be proud of yourself,” UIU Alumni Association president Jann Henkes ’78 said during the closing of the event. “Take time to celebrate your accomplishment and never let this moment in time be forgotten. Tomorrow, next week, next year, or as in my case, over 40 years from now as you reflect on today, I hope you have fond memories of your time at Upper Iowa University.”

UIU successfully crafted a number of modifications to its traditional in-person commencement to create a safer and healthier environment for its graduates and guests during the May 8 ceremonies. The university held a virtual commencement in 2020.

A private, nonprofit university, UIU provides undergraduate and graduate degree programs to about 4,500 students at its Fayette, Iowa, Campus, 21 U.S. education locations in Arizona, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas and Wisconsin.