OGDEN -- Weber State University's class of 2013 packed the hallway at the Dee Events Center on Friday, excited and chattering despite the early hour of the general commencement ceremony.
Lined up by colleges minutes before the 8 a.m. ceremony, students in purple or black robes and mortarboard caps shared their elation and their personal stories.
"The light at the end of the tunnel has been elusive, but this is it," said Adrienne Haskins, 29, who lives in Tulsa, Okla., and earned her bachelor of science through online WSU courses. "I'm excited and nervous, and I'm feeling too much to put it all into words."
Haskins chose WSU's online program because it was the best for what she wants to do, she said. She hopes to find work as a radiologist's assistant.
"It's been a great experience," Haskins said. "It's an honor to be here, and I am just so grateful."
Daniel Lippert, 23, of North Ogden, earned his associate of science degree and will work this summer as a chemical technician for Tesoro, in Salt Lake City. He'll return to WSU in the fall to pursue his bachelor's degree.
"Weber State is one of the only schools to offer a two-year chemical technician degree," Lippert said. "I start my job Monday. I put in a lot of work over the past two years, and my professors were wonderful. I love the small class sizes and the beautiful campus, right up against the mountains. Weber State is great, great, great."
Jennifer Burgi, 23, of Roy, earned a bachelor of music degree.
"It feels wonderful," she said, of her impending graduation. "It's taken a long time, and it's great to be here today."
Burgi said she plans to teach music privately and has interviewed for jobs at several corporations. She also will teach piano to private students and has several people lined up.
"Music has taught me life skills, like leadership, confidence and determinations," she said. "I really want to share my passion for music. I started piano lessons when I was very young, and I always wanted to quit. But I didn't quit, and now I want to share my passion with other students and inspire them not to quit and to find their own passion."
With music playing, the graduation candidates filed into the arena. For this, the 141st Weber State commencement ceremony, more than 2,880 graduates were among those who attended spring commencement, according to WSU numbers. The fall 2012 and spring 2013 graduates total is more than 4,320, according to WSU.
The Top 10 2012-2013 among graduates were nursing, radiological technology, business administration, accounting, teacher education, technical sales, computer science, clinical laboratory science, health promotion and human performance, and criminal justice.
Former Utah Gov. Jon M. Huntsman gave Friday's keynote speech.
"You, almost alumni, your day has arrived," Huntsman said, sparking cheers from the crowd.
"Today, we are closing an incredibly important and expensive chapter of your life," he added, drawing laughter.
Huntsman's talk, lively and peppered with pop-culture references, covered the value of education, and some of the lessons his own life has taught him. Besides serving as Utah governor between 2005 and 2009, Huntsman has served as ambassador to Singapore, deputy United States trade representative, and ambassador to China. He was among the candidates for the Republican nomination for the 2012 presidential election.
Huntsman succeeded his father as chairman of the Huntsman Cancer Institute. The younger Huntsman told his listeners Friday that he also has learned a lot from his seven children, including young daughters adopted from China and India.
So, Huntsman's advice to graduating students? Be yourself. Find causes that are important to you. Embrace your failures, which will be great learning experiences. Find someone to love.
"And never forget to rock and roll," Huntsman said.
The ceremonial moment came when Weber State University President Chuck Wight declared the candidates graduates and invited them all to move the tassel on their mortarboards hat from the right side to the left, signifying their new status.
Wight told students he hoped their relationship with WSU would continue.
"You will always be part of Weber State University," Wight said. "Don't ever forget that you bleed purple."