Waiting for his diploma, Miki Jacevic reflected on his “long journey” from Bosnian refugee to American college graduate.
Jacevic came here in 1992 from Sarajevo, where he was attending college. When war broke out, his parents urged him to leave and complete his education in the United States.
The hard work and sacrifice paid off Sunday, when he graduated with honors from Gonzaga University.
“It’s been a long journey,” said Jacevic, 25. “Everything just flashed back to me. My parents and all the different people in Spokane who made this day possible.”
Many of GU’s 800 graduates took a moment to thank family and friends for emotional and financial support.
In his commencement address, the Rev. Fred Kammer, president of Catholic Charities USA, encouraged graduates to use their gifts to heal a needy world.
“We need your dreams today … and your commitment to service, because we are a nation that has too much selfishness,” he said.
With 240,000 volunteers, Catholic Charities reaches 11 million people each year. And that is only a beginning, Kammer said.
“There are walls and air conditioners and computers and stereos blocking out the sounds of human longing.”
Hope is what Kammer asked the students never to run out of.
“Too many people have despaired of the present and the future. You have great gifts to offer us and we have much to learn from you in the coming years if you are, or become, a people for others.”
His sentiments were echoed by native Hawaiian Denise Kamimura, who greeted her graduating class with “Aloha!”
“I want to talk to you about the aloha spirit,” she said. “It was when someone would invite me to their home for a holiday because I couldn’t go home.”
In the smile of strangers or the hugs during peace at mass, Kamimura said she realized she wasn’t as far from home as she thought.
“These are the displays of aloha spirit at Gonzaga. It’s essential that we, as alumni, as we leave GU, share it with this not-so-perfect world.”
When Gonzaga’s president, the Rev. Edward Glynn, placed an honorary law degree medal around Vernon Baker’s neck, the crowd jumped to their feet and clapped. “For him, heroism was a habit,” said retired Lt.Col. E.J. Johnson of the black World War II hero who recently received the Medal of Honor. Johnson introduced Baker at the ceremony. “He stands before you as … a national treasure and a bonafide American hero.”
Kammer and Sister Margaret Mary Conway also were awarded honorary degrees.
While sitting through the calling of the names of his fellow graduates, Jacevic smiled and moved his white tassel from right to left.
“It’s just overwhelming,” he said, clutching his diploma case. “But it’s time to move forward. I’m sure I’ll be a very proud Gonzaga alumnus.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo