Education

Fresno State graduates more than 5,000

Susan and David Flood of Auberry got to see something Saturday that few parents do: all four of their children graduating on the same day.

Twins Erik and Timothy, 25, Steven, 24, and Rebecca, 22, all went through Saturday's ceremonies together at California State University, Fresno, although Timothy officially graduated in December.

"See," Timothy said, showing off the '09 emblem on his tassel.

The siblings began their celebration Friday at convocations held by the departments where they earned their degrees.

The university conferred those degrees in its 99th Commencement at the Save Mart Center.

Steven, a mechanical engineering major, will be commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Marines in August. Erik, Timothy and Rebecca graduated with degrees in agricultural science and technology.

"How could you not be proud?" David Flood said Friday, blinking away tears. "They're a unit," he said, because they're so close in age.

A combination of a slow start in college and working part-time jobs kept the boys from graduating sooner.

But when Rebecca started college, the boys realized "it was time to get it in gear," Flood said.

The siblings wanted to graduate together, so "they challenged and kept track of each other -- are you ready for that test, is your homework done?" their father said.

Going through commencement together was "a little bit strange," Rebecca said. "But it's nice to share it and not have the limelight all to yourself."

The Save Mart Center was packed Saturday. Graduates in black caps and gowns sat on folding chairs set up on the arena floor. The university conferred bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees on 5,317 students.

The President's Medal -- the university's highest medal to an undergraduate -- was awarded to Melissa M. Freeman, 22, of Fresno, who graduated with a 3.98 grade-point average with a dual major in linguistics and international business.

In presenting the award, Fresno State President John Welty called Freeman "a stellar student, an honor student and a scholar who gives her time and talents to the university and the community."

Freeman, who was also a Fresno State cheerleader, said, "Everyone has a story, and today starts a new chapter in those stories. I'll give you a piece of advice you may have heard before -- Go 'Dogs Go."

Freeman also received honors medals in each of her majors and was the dean's medalist in the Craig School of Business.

Adding the President's Medal was "a good kind of overwhelming," she said.

The University Graduate Medal was awarded to Kristiana Dixon, who completed a master's degree in criminology with a 4.0 grade-point average.

After the ceremony, graduates, families and friends spilled into the Save Mart Center's lobby and outside on the lawn, hugging and taking pictures.

As thousands of graduates head for the job market, those who are willing to relocate are more likely to find a job, said Rita Boccinfuso-Cohen, director of the university's career services.

The job market constantly shifts, she said, but currently there are more jobs in technical areas in business and engineering.

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