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Thousands of Titans Graduate, Celebrate

TIMES STAFF WRITER

“Will work for food” has been the motto of choice on graduation day in recent years, but an improving economy seemed to inspire a new favorite at the Cal State Fullerton ceremony Saturday.

“Show me the money!” read handmade signs attached to mortarboards and was the slogan shouted at random by graduating seniors, all quoting the instant cliche created by the film “Jerry Maguire.”

More than 3,200 seniors crossed the stage Saturday during the second day of weekend-long graduation proceedings at the campus’ Titan Sports Complex--and many will likely find a friendlier job market than their counterparts did in recent years.

“This is a more optimistic group, as enthusiastic as I’ve seen,” said University President Milton A. Gordon. “We’ve gone through events lately where both the university budget and the economy were down, so it’s great to see.”

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In all, 6,000 graduates will join in the 38th annual commencement. The staggered proceedings conclude tonight with seniors from the School of Human Development and Community Service and guest speaker Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Garden Grove).

On Saturday, an oppressive morning sun didn’t deter families and friends from filling stadium seats to cheer on the graduates of the School of Business Administration and Economics. An estimated crowd of 11,000 braved the heat, campus officials said.

“We’re just extremely, immensely proud,” Correen LaCounte said as her son, Kevin, wound his way back to his seat after his name was called. “This is just great.”

The Anaheim mother and about a dozen other relatives and friends of the 22-year-old finance major shouted his name and held a 6-foot banner that said, “Reality Check: Welcome to the Real World Kevin.”

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The real world may actually be on hold, though. Correen LaCounte said her son wants to “travel, relax and just flake” for a time after completing his studies.

“I told him to do it now, because once you’re in the working world, it’s for life,” she said.

That insight was shared by many of Saturday’s graduates, who said they were not going to let the occasion pass without a party.

As academics and alumni walked to the dais to speak, raucous seniors danced in their seats, did the wave, shredded programs into confetti and booed an usher who took away an inflatable whale they used as a crowd toy.

“It’s a celebration and a new beginning,” said information systems senior Robert Pryor, a 22-year-old from Buena Park who already has a job lined up in Irvine. “The difference between this and high school is this is something you choose to do as opposed to something you had to do.”

Another information systems senior, 28-year-old Tony Ojangole, said he would look back on the day as a key moment in his life, and a celebration of past and present.

“It’s bittersweet,” he said as he filed into the stadium with his fellow seniors.

The native of Uganda said he would especially miss the classmates who had reached out to him to help him adjust and succeed in a new country.

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“There’s a sense of loss,” Ojangole said. “I’m not going to see a lot of these people again. But it is also a happy event. We don’t know what the future will hold. It’s exciting.”


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