FAIRBANKS — Olympic medalist Matt Emmons took the opportunity during his commencement address to provide University of Alaska Fairbanks graduates a lesson in the meaning of success and failure.
Emmons, a 2003 UAF graduate in business administration, addressed more than 600 students during graduation ceremonies Sunday at the Carlson Center, according to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.
Emmons earned the bronze medal in the three positions rifle event in 2012 games, but only after mistakes dashed his dreams of medaling at two previous Olympic appearances in the event.
“Lots of reporters and people have asked me if it hurts that I missed those two golds,” he said. “My answer is yes and no. It’d be nice to have those medals. ... At the same time, however, I finally realized that I’m actually thankful for those two big and humiliating mistakes. They made me so much stronger than I ever would have been otherwise.”
UAF awarded more than 1,360 degrees on Sunday, the most ever, as well as the largest number of doctorates at 52.
Graduate commencement speaker Kaare Odegard told his fellow graduates that plenty of hard work went into making the day possible.
“The skills you have acquired over the past four, five, six or for some of you even seven years will provide you with the necessary tools to be successful no matter what path you take,” he said. “Embrace this opportunity to make a difference, and don’t be afraid to take risks.”
Despite Emmons’ acknowledged mistakes in three-position rifle, he medaled as a member of Team USA in each of the last three Olympic Games: gold in 2004, silver in 2008 and bronze in 2012.
Emmons shot for the Nanooks from 1999-2003 and graduated from UAF in 2003 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. He also holds a master’s degree from the University of Colorado.
While a Nanook, Emmons helped the rifle team capture four consecutive national championships. He also earned four NCAA individual titles in the process. An eight-time National Rifle Association First Team All-American, he was the first and only shooter in NCAA history to claim three career NCAA smallbore championships, according to UAF’s website.
In international competition, he is consistently ranked among the top 10 rifle shooters in the world and holds USA Shooting records for smallbore and air rifle. He is one of few shooters internationally to have shot perfect scores in both disciplines.
TimmieSue Edgerly, a mother of two, received her associate degree in paralegal studies magna cum laude. She said it wasn’t easy to balance being a mom with the classwork. She said it was worth it to show her two children that hard work can pay off and that you can go to school at any age.