David Castles of Bullard, left, receives the President’s Award for meritorious service Saturday from University of Mary Hardin-Baylor President Randy O’Rear during a commencement ceremony at Crusader Stadium in Belton.

BELTON — The University of Mary Hardin-Baylor held a commencement ceremony for its 165th graduating class on Saturday in Crusader Stadium, as 490 students received degrees, including 415 baccalaureate degrees, 57 master’s degrees and 18 doctoral degrees.

UMHB President Randy O’Rear praised students for their dedication and determination to complete their degrees in unprecedented times.

“During your junior year, the COVID-19 pandemic altered almost every aspect of college life,” he said. “It was the longest spring break of all our lives. As seniors, you also survived the once-in-a-lifetime winter storm. These things helped you learn to be intentional and to not take anything, even the little things, for granted. I hope that is one lesson that stays with you as you leave UMHB.”

The ceremony was partially virtual, lacking a printed program, and skipping such formalities as the opening procession. The home side of the stadium was fairly well filled, and a smaller number on the visitor’s side braved the glare of the lowering sun.

Due to safety protocols, O’Rear said, most faculty and staff did not attend. Nevertheless, he said, they “stand alongside and care deeply for the graduates.”

“I am also grateful to our board of trustees,” he said. “Thank you for your leadership.”

He then asked all graduates and members of the audience who were past or present members of the U.S. armed forces to stand and be honored.

“Thank you for defending our freedom,” he said.

O’Rear ran through a few graduation one-liners, such as “Every accomplishment always starts with the decision to try” and “Don’t tell me the sky is the limit when there are footprints on the moon.”

David Holcomb, director of the honors program, introduced five students who met the requirements for the honors program. He pointed out that they not only had to do the coursework but also undertake a senior research project. He named Lezley Garcia of Pharr as magna cum laude. He named Scarlett Gardner of Harker Heights, Regan Murr of San Marcos, Rebecca Pantalion of Tomball and Megan Skains of Huntsville, all as summa cum laude.

Miriam Osterlund of Midland and Stephen Rowe of Texas City were awarded the Loyalty Cup, given to the student most representative of the ideals, traditions and spirit of the university.

David Castles of Bullard received the President’s Award for meritorious service.

Three officers were commissioned during the ceremony: Alexandra Dalle of Austin, Stone Klingaman of Boerne and Michael McAuliffe of Katy.

The ceremony was livestreamed and the preview featured informal photographs of graduates. The program, which could be downloaded, had a brief history of the university.

UMHB was chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas as the Female Division of Baylor University. The school moved from Independence to Belton in 1886, went through a few name changes and became fully coeducational in 1971. It has a current student population of almost 4,000.

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