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So now you're a Washington State alum: the CougCenter commencement speech

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You leave this hallowed ground a college graduate. So now what?

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

/Dr. Kirk Schulz steps to the stage in Beasley Coliseum

"Ladies and gentlemen it is now my honor to present to you one of your own. A man whose mark is so permanent on this school, it's still on the underside of one of the bars at the Coug. He won't tell you where it is though, lest you think about covering it up. Coming to the podium now, Mr. Robert Michael Preston, Washington State University Class of 2010."

/light applause with audible gasps of "Who?"

"Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. It's my distinct pleasure to be here with you today for the third year in a row. I always treasure my trips to Pullman but to speak to such a distinguished group is truly quite an honor."

"So ... this is the end, huh? It took years of toiling with difficult course work, nights where the clock seemed to fly by as you tried to drag that paper out to ten pages and no less than four sprained joints from that incredibly thick ice on every walkway in the city."

"What makes today so rewarding is the difficulty of the academic and personal journey you just finished. These have been the most difficult and challenging years of your life. At the end of it, you get to say something pretty cool: I'm a college graduate. Wherever you go in life, don't ever let anyone reduce the importance of you sitting before me today. What you've managed to accomplish is nothing short of spectacular."

"I could spend the next 15 or so minutes talking about what lies ahead when you leave here today. The bills. The job hunt. The endless hours of work and frustration that someone took your homemade turkey club out of the office refrigerator AGAIN. I KNOW IT'S YOU, PHIL. STOP TAKING MY DAMN TURKEY CLUB, YOU INSUFFERABLE GAS BAG!"

"You'll get plenty of advice about what's to come from the people who are here supporting you today. That's not what I'm here for."

"I'm here today to talk about something different. You see, most people think of going to college as a merely academic endeavor. You're here to learn how to do something to make your adult life better. While that's an important part of college and, if I'm being honest, the entire foundation the university system is built on, I would put it to you that it's not the most important thing."

"There's a question I want everybody to ask their loved ones who are here today when they meet them after this ceremony: Am I a better person than I was when I first came here? I would wager each and every one of them would answer 'Yes'. College is not just a place where you come to transform your education, you come to transform who you are as a person."

"Since we last spoke, a man who I consider to be formative in the transformation of this university left us far too soon. Dr. Elson S. Floyd was a man of such integrity, kindness, and strength, that he fought until his dying days to give this university a gift we could never possibly repay him for: the formation of a medical school. He, among many others, helped transform this school into an institution that can support the education of this state's future doctors. For that, and so many other things Dr. Floyd transformed this school into, I want to thank him. And to his family, for allowing us the privilege of having him for the time we did."

"Now, what makes your transformation so incredible and dramatic is this institution and the place it's in. No matter where you're from, Washington State University is a long way from anywhere. You're in a brand new and unfamiliar place. You're no longer around long-time friends and family on a daily basis. Most importantly, for many of you, you were out of your comfort zone for the first time."

"It's what makes this place so special; this little tract of land they call God's Country. The bonds you form with the people here are stronger than you could've ever previously imagined. You saw your friends on a near daily basis, whether it was at the CUB, in class, or at Taco Tuesdays. Parents, Taco Tuesdays are study sessions where students got together to go over their very copious notes from the previous week and cook tacos for one another. There's no drinking of alcoholic beverages involved. None. Of any kind."

"The responsibility of being hundreds of miles away from home, the incredible bonding with the people around you and the striking beauty of the place you're in, all contributed to making you the person who sits before me. What makes Pullman and Washington State so special to me are the things people often find least desirable about it. The isolation, the size of the city, the remote journey to get here. But all those things are what makes Pullman what it is: the place where you transformed from a teenager into a full-fledged adult."

"After this, you'll go home, you may have a small get together with your family and then you'll probably head out for one last night of fun. After that, if you're anything like me, you'll find any excuse possible to put packing off. But once you finally fill your car to the brim with your things, you'll have to drive away from this place as a student for the last time. Whether it's to the north, south, east or west, at some point, Pullman will disappear behind a Palouse hill in your rearview mirror."

"Will you be back? I hope so. But you'll be a different person. So when you drive home next week, you're not leaving Pullman in your rearview. You're leaving the best four years of your life behind."

"I'm so very proud and honored to call you all graduates of Washington State University today."

"Now, lets end with a joke shall we? How many UW freshman from Medina does it take to screw in a light bulb? Two. One to hold both glasses of zinfandel and the other to call their dad to change it for them."