The university’s first honorary doctorate degree will be presented and an alumnus who is the head of People Strategy at Groupon, Inc. will address graduates and their families at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point spring commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 21.
Dan Jessup, a 2000 graduate, will speak to more than 1,200 graduates, ages 20 to 71. Due to the threat of inclement weather, the ceremonies will take place in Quandt Fieldhouse. The first ceremony at 10 a.m. will include the presentation of the Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters Degree to former U.S. Secretary of Defense Melvin R. Laird, who resides in Florida. Accepting the degree on his behalf at the ceremony will be his son, John Laird, and Karen Engelhard, the chair of the Laird Endowment Advisory Board.
The morning ceremony will also honor graduates with associate, baccalaureate and master’s degrees in the College of Letters & Science and the College of Natural Resources. The 2 p.m. ceremony will honor graduates with baccalaureate, master’s and clinical doctorate degrees in the College of Fine Arts & Communication and College of Professional Studies.
The commencement programs will open with the presentation of flags by the ROTC color guard. The national anthem will be sung by senior music education major Danielle Kinderman of Appleton at both ceremonies. Presiding over the ceremonies are Chancellor Bernie Patterson, Faculty Senate Chair and Astronomy Professor Randy Olson and Interim Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Brad Van Den Elzen. Patterson will give the welcome and charge to the graduates.
Representing the class of 2011, senior chemistry major Tracey Oudenhoven of Stevens Point will speak at the morning ceremony and senior arts management and theatre design and technology major Scott Frost of Kenosha will speak at the 2 p.m. ceremony. Deans from their respective colleges will assist the chancellor in the presentation of diplomas. Candidates for graduation will be introduced by English Professor Rebecca Stephens at 10 a.m. and by Physical Education Professor Scott Frazier at 2 p.m.
Alumnus Ray Oswald of Milwaukee, president of the Alumni Association, will give the charge to alumni. Music will be provided by the Concert Band at the first ceremony and the Wind Ensemble in the second, both conducted by Assistant Professor of Music Brendan Caldwell. Senior music education and vocal performance major Michael Fowler of Stevens Point will sing the alma mater at the close of both ceremonies.
Laird is being honored for his contributions to the region, state and nation. He served as a Wisconsin state senator, U.S. Congressman and U.S. Secretary of Defense as well as the founder of the Laird Youth Leadership Foundation and biennial Laird Youth Leadership Day conference at UW-Stevens Point. During the conference’s 21 years, thousands of high school-aged youth from Central and Northern Wisconsin attended leadership workshops and lectures with notables such as former President Gerald Ford and former U.S. Secretaries of State Colin Powell, Henry Kissinger and Lawrence Eagleburger.
Jessup has spent the 11 years since he graduated from UW-Stevens Point working in recruiting, human resources and acting. After moving to Chicago in 2002, he studied improvisation and performed at various theaters, including the UW-Stevens Point alumni-created Rubicon Theatre Project. Soon he was teaching improvisation to actors and nonactors as a tool for interpersonal communication.
Joining Groupon, Inc.’s Chicago headquarters in 2009, Jessup directed talent acquisition and established recruiting and hiring standards. Since then, the company has grown from about 50 employees to more than 1,900 in North America. A market-leading e-commerce platform dedicated to local commerce, Groupon now has a presence in over 500 markets in more than 45 countries. Jessup became the company’s head of People Strategy this spring, using his background in talent acquisition and training as well as his experiences in improvisation to focus on the company’s culture and talent retention. He is a corporate workshop facilitator and performer, and works with Second City Communications to use improvisation to improve interpersonal communication and team dynamics.