More than 900 University of New Orleans students received their degrees at the spring 2015 commencement exercises, held Friday, May 15 at the Lakefront Arena. Dennis Lauscha, president of the New Orleans Saints and New Orleans Pelicans, served as the principal speaker and praised the role that UNO played in his own career ascent. Lauscha did post-graduate work at the University while preparing to sit for the Certified Public Accounting examination.
“I am sincerely thankful to the graduates, President (Peter) Fos and the UNO community; this is an honor and privilege,” Lauscha said. “This is my first time delivering a commencement address, and I don’t think I would rather do this at any other school in the country. I shared the same classrooms you shared. I finally got the accounting classes I needed.”
Lauscha went on to declare, “I would not be where I am without UNO.”
Lauscha, who holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Alabama and a master’s of business administration from Loyola University New Orleans, has held his current position with both professional sports franchises since 2012. He has spent 17 years with the Saints organization.
In his remarks to the class of 2015, Lauscha encouraged graduates to understand their value and usefulness. He also said that they should always trust themselves and remain humble in their gifts. He exhorted them to “have a thirst for knowledge and seek to continually improve.”
The University also presented an honorary doctorate to Gordon “Nick” Mueller, a former history professor and administrator at UNO who now serves as the president and CEO of The National World War II Museum. As a faculty member, he established the University’s first international summer program in Munich, Germany in 1973. Two years later, he moved the program to Innsbruck, Austria, where it continues to flourish. The UNO-Innsbruck International Summer School has educated more than 10,000 students and is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. The current Division of International Education is another of Mueller’s legacies at UNO.
“The degree you earn today will prepare you for the tests before you,” Mueller told the assembled graduates.
Early in the ceremony, President Peter J. Fos acknowledged several specific graduates. Gerard Williams, a staff member in the Privateer Enrollment Center, received his doctoral degree—his third degree from UNO—and had maintained a perfect 4.0 grade point average during his entire collegiate career. Gerard Kreider began attending UNO in 1973 and left to work for the New Orleans Police Department for more than 20 years. After retiring from the NOPD, he began working for the UNO Police Department and resumed his studies. Now retired from UNOPD, he finally completed his degree. Peter Varnado also became the Varnado family’s fifth child to earn a degree from UNO within the past seven years.
“This is why UNO matters,” Fos said.
As is customary at UNO’s commencement, the ceremony concluded with a rousing second line, led by a brass band, as graduates paraded out of the Lakefront Arena.