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WATCH: December Commencement Message Follow Your Dreams

The morning skies threatened rain on a chilly December morning, but the crowds were spared from a soaking at the University of Cincinnati Commencement Ceremony on Dec. 15.

View a Slide Show of UC’s December 2012 Commencement

However, the cloudy skies reflected a nation in mourning over the elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn., and UC President Santa J. Ono opened the ceremony with a moment of silence in memory of the victims of that tragedy.

This was also the first Commencement for Ono as president of the University of Cincinnati, after he was formally appointed to the office last October, first serving as interim president.

“No matter where you are from and where you will make your next home, today each of you embarks on a new phase in your life’s journey,” Ono told the graduates. “Without a doubt, each of you is a different person from when you first arrived. And there is no denying that from this day forward, you are a UC alumnus.”

U.S. Senator Rob Portman (Ohio) delivered the Commencement address, advising graduates to follow their dreams and avoid complacency. “If you learn how to listen to yourself, you will figure out pretty quickly what leads to fulfillment and real happiness.

“Whatever comes your way, constantly strive to do your best, and build strong relationships and trust person-by-person,” said Portman. “Building these relationships with others will come back to benefit you in life and work in ways you can’t imagine.”

Senator Portman was presented with the University of Cincinnati Award for Excellence, which recognizes individuals who have made a significant contribution to the purposes and ideals of the university.

Larry Sheakley, C.E.O. of the Sheakley Group, was presented with an Honorary Doctor of Commercial Science.

Also at the ceremony, President Ono paid tribute to Mitchel D. Livingston, UC vice president for Student Affairs and Chief Diversity Officer, who is retiring at the end of December. “We thank him for 18 years of service to UC and 43 years of service to higher education,” said Ono.

The UC Alumni Association hosted a reception for all graduates and guests at the Russell C. Myers Alumni Center.