Salt Lake Community College President Deneece Huftalin, along with other speakers, congratulated the 2021 graduating class for completing their degree despite the pandemic.
On Friday, Aug. 6, the 2021 SLCC graduates walked across the stage to accept their diplomas.
“I feel overwhelmed for sure. I didn’t think I would ever graduate, and I’m incredibly proud of myself. I’m going to graduate with a 3.89 GPA,” Heather Maggio, a graduate of social work, reflected.
These alumni have much to be proud of, as most of the speakers noted.
“Community is not an abstract idea at our college,” President Huftalin remarked at the beginning of the ceremony. “It’s woven into the culture.”
Huftalin noted this was evidenced by the more than 3,600 students who attended the in-person commencement ceremony despite a pandemic, earthquake, and campus fire occurring in the past year and a half.
After Huftalin’s speech, the crowd heard a few words from the 2020-21 SLCC Student Association President, Emily Hernandez Alzamora.
“Do not wait for someone else to make the changes: make the change,” Alzamora said. “The world is changing, and we need to change with it. We are the class of possibilities.”
Her words echoed the Respectus Quote that Huftalin chose for the 2020-21 school year, taken from the late U.S. Congressman John Lewis: “You must be bold, brave and courageous and find a way to get in the way.”
Timothy S. Huval, an SLCC alumnus and the chief administrative officer of Humana, was the keynote speaker of the evening. He shared his heartbreaking experience of coming back to life from several debilitating illnesses that the medical community still does not fully understand. The essence of his story can be summarized with one word: Chances.
“When I was sitting there [in the hospital] paralyzed, I was just thinking about chances,” Huval recalled. “My chances were taken away, and I just wanted them back.”
All of Huval’s remarks fit the theme of the night to inspire the recent graduates to not be afraid to go out into the world and make a difference.
“Do not take life’s chances for granted; good or bad,” Huval said. His two biggest pieces of advice to the room: First, to be present in the moment with everyone, and second, to find a way to make a difference in someone’s life every day.
To illustrate the benefits of living in the moment with everyone, he invited the audience to see every situation from the other point of view.
“Every single person is going through something, and that ‘something’ is the most important thing in the world for them at that moment in time,” Huval advised.
Although Huval has a net worth of about $20 million, he said a career should not define who a person is or what their quality of life is.
“Define yourself by the differences you’ve made,” Huval said. “What differences can we make during this lifetime? Please don’t take one second for granted.”
Huval ended with a phrase that everyone who attended must have been thinking at that moment. “You should all be very proud.”