“Dear UNLV Spring Class of 2022, welcome to the finish line.”
Undergraduate commencement speaker Blanca Pena summed it up pretty well as she addressed more than a thousand excited UNLV graduates and countless friends and family packed into the Thomas & Mack Center stands on Saturday morning.
“When we received our UNLV acceptance letters, we all made a commitment to not just UNLV, but to ourselves and our future,” Pena said. “Upon immersing ourselves within this university, we stepped into a world of discovery of not just higher education, but of ourselves.”
Throughout the weekend, more than 3,300 UNLV students officially joined the ranks of Rebel alumni during three on-campus ceremonies – the first time spring graduation festivities returned to the familiar surroundings of the Thomas & Mack since 2019. The pandemic upended 2020’s spring commencement, which was eventually moved to a combined multi-day celebration with last spring’s graduates in May 2021 at Sam Boyd Stadium. Now back at the Mack, the growing university celebrated its newest alumni during two undergraduate ceremonies and a new, third event specifically for master’s and doctoral degree recipients.
In all, the Class of 2022 hails from 40 states and 56 foreign countries, many are the first in their family to graduate from college, 86% are Nevada residents, and well over half – 62% – are from ethnically diverse backgrounds. This year’s class ranges in age from 19 to 77, with the average age of 27.“Commencement is the most important day in the life of this university. In all of higher education, it just doesn’t get any better than this,” said UNLV President Keith E. Whitfield. “You didn’t just reach the finish line – you blew past it.”
In his address to graduates, President Whitfield also told them that while it’s important to celebrate that victory, it’s equally important to look ahead.
“Graduates, Nevada needs you. More than two-thirds of UNLV’s graduates will stay and work in Southern Nevada, and we need all of you,” he said. “You are the highly skilled professionals who will bring new ideas and creative leadership to our state’s workforce - assets we’ll need as we emerge from this pandemic stronger and more resilient.”
During the weekend ceremonies, Whitfield honored six graduating students for their outstanding academic and community achievements, including rising researchers and innovators, artists and activists, and business and public policy trailblazers.
He also awarded honorary doctorate degrees to Sig Rogich, a longtime communications executive and community business leader, and to renowned actress and UNLV Fine Arts Hall of Famer Ann-Margret.
Ann-Margret’s 60-plus year career includes Golden Globe and Emmy awards numerous box office hits, and – at least for one famous film – a UNLV tie. Her 1963 film Viva Las Vegas included an iconic scene with co-star Elvis Presley where the two danced in a hall at Nevada Southern University, a setting that's now UNLV’s Barrick Museum of Art.
“I have loved Las Vegas ever since I first performed in the Dunes Lounge,” she shared, upon being introduced for the first time by President Whitfield as Dr. Ann-Marget. “The memories here are numerous and wonderful, and today really adds a very special placement in my heart.”
The movie star and 3,300 of her fellow UNLV grads join the nearly 135,000 who count themselves as UNLV alumni. UNLV awarded its first degree in 1964.