Graduates asked to reflect on life's journey

2019 Csomay

Receiving the Upper Iowa University Csomay Honors Program medallions during Saturday’s commencement exercises at Harms-Eischeid Stadium in Fayette were (l-r) Jacquelyn Arbegast, Caleb Robbins,  William O’Neill, Alison Leuchtenmacher, and Hayley Cessna.

FAYETTE, Iowa (May 4, 2019) – “As I look out at this beautiful crowd, I am aware that you all have a story about the journey that brought you to this point,” Upper Iowa University (UIU) alumna Lisa Richards ‘93 said as she addressed UIU’s 2019 graduates during Saturday’s two commencement ceremonies. UIU graduates attended a morning or afternoon ceremony at Harms-Eischeid Stadium in Fayette, Iowa, depending on the degree received.

“For several of you, it was to get the degree needed for the next step in your already established career,” Richards said, noting diverse paths students take in getting to this point in their lives.  “You are already busy with your life and raising a family - UIU’s flexibility and vast options allowed you to complete the next milestone, as UIU is an Education Built for Life.  For some of you, UIU served as your first step in your journey and you will soon be entering the next chapter.”

A native of Fosston, Minnesota, Lisa (Maanum) Richards earned bachelor’s degrees in marketing and psychology at UIU. She currently serves as chief experience officer for Starkey Hearing Technologies in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. As part of her duties, Richards provides strategic direction for a team of over 140 members. She and her husband, Steve, reside in Monticello, Minnesota. The couple has five children and one granddaughter. 

“I gained much more than an education while at UIU,” Richards said. “I gained lifelong friends. I gained confidence. I had people push and build into me. I had people care for me, coach me and guide me. I call these people the angels in my life and I cherish them still today. I hope, as you look back at your UIU journey, you can identify people that have had a similar impact on you.”

Csomay Honor students recognized
Receiving the Csomay Honors Program medallions during Saturday’s commencement exercises were Jacquelyn Arbegast, a Birth-Grade 3: Inclusive Settings major from Sheffield, Iowa; Hayley Cessna, a Chemistry and Life Science major from Spring Valley, Illinois; Alison Leuchtenmacher, an Accounting and Psychology major from Elgin, Iowa; William O’Neill, an Environmental Science major from Mason City, Iowa; and Caleb Robbins, a Financial Management major from Cedar Rapids, 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 is a day that is all about you and your experience as you celebrate this outstanding accomplishment,” UIU Alumni Association president Angie Joseph ‘82 said while closing the ceremonies. “We hope you will include Upper Iowa University in your many happy and successful tomorrows.”

During the two commencement ceremonies held at Harms-Eischeid Stadium, approximately 600 graduates walked across the stage.  In 2019, 1,504 students completed their associate, bachelor's or master's degree requirements at all UIU locations. Of those, 195 graduated from the Fayette location, 839 completed their degree at one of UIU’s 21 locations throughout the United States, 349 graduated through online or self-paced study programs, and 117 were from the University’s international centers in Hong Kong and Malaysia. UIU is one of the most diverse universities in Iowa. In all, the graduates represented 39 states and eight nations.

Commencement photos will be posted on Flickr at

In addition, the 2019 UIU graduates have been invited to participate in the My Success graduation page. To view a few of the 230-plus responses, visit

About Upper Iowa University Founded in 1857, Upper Iowa University is a private, nonprofit university providing undergraduate and graduate degree programs to about 5,200 students–nationally and internationally–at its Fayette campus, 21 U.S. locations, as well as a location in Hong Kong. Upper Iowa University is a recognized innovator in offering accredited, quality programs through flexible, multiple delivery systems, including online and self-paced degree program. With a focus on developing leaders and lifelong learners, UIU provides dual enrollment programs for high school students as well as continuing education and professional development opportunities for learners of any age. For more information, visit

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