The graduates at Sunday’s commencement ceremony for Gonzaga University were eagerly looking toward the future.
Jessica Clark’s ready to serve in the Army. Tye Perdido is going to try to forge a career in pro soccer. Kathleen Carter’s got a job lined up in the Seattle area.
And oh, yeah – that tall guy with the beard and dreads, a head above the others in blue caps and gowns? He’s got a job, too. He’ll be returning to the NBA.
Ronny Turiaf, one of the brightest stars in recent GU basketball history, returned to Spokane this weekend to pick up his sheepskin in sports management. Turiaf, who plays for the NBA’s Golden State Warriors, walked in the graduation ceremony five years ago but had a couple of unfinished classes hanging over his head. In the past couple of months, though, he wrapped them up online and made it back for this year’s undergraduate commencement ceremony at the Spokane Arena.
“It was very hard to do, but it was something I wanted to do,” Turiaf said. “I wanted this piece of paper really bad.”
Turiaf was greeted with a roar when his name was announced and he crossed the stage for his diploma. He was part of a record graduating class at GU – 2,092 degrees were granted to undergrads, graduates and law students.
Sadly, one of the degrees conferred was posthumous. Lacey Jo Rosenbaum, a 22-year-old volleyball player from Kennewick, died March 30 after complications from knee surgery for torn cartilage. When her family accepted the degree, the Arena crowd rose to its feet in a standing ovation.
Before the ceremony began, graduates mingled on the Arena floor as they waited for the processional. Clark, a 22-year-old from Fresno, Calif., stood at the head of one of the alphabetized lines of students. A second lieutenant stationed at Fort Hood, she graduated with a degree in English and said she’s happy to be finished with school – for now.
“I hope to go back to law school, so having an English degree will be very helpful,” she said.
Perdido, a standout in soccer at GU, wore a traditional Hawaiian maile lei around his neck over his blue gown. The 21-year-old graduate in religious studies said he plans to try to break into professional soccer and will be playing for the Kitsap Pumas.
Turiaf is now on vacation following the close of the NBA season. The former Zag star was drafted in 2005 by the Los Angeles Lakers and signed with the Warriors in 2008. He said that he arrived in town a couple days ago and had a celebration dinner with some of his former teammates who came to Spokane for the occasion.
“It was a true pleasure – a true happiness,” he said.
Turiaf said he eventually wants to work on the business side of sports and is considering getting a master’s in sports management. He said he’s glad he made the last push to earn his degree.
“It was the fourth quarter with two minutes left,” he said, “and I was able to win the game.”