DURHAM — Like any graduation, the University of New Hampshire commencement ceremony yesterday was filled with laughter, spirit and hope for the future.
Thousands of people gathered in the hot sun outside the Whittemore Center Arena to honor the approximately 2,500 graduates for their hard work and dedication.
But the 143rd commencement also proved to be a tribute to the selfless, heroic acts of others in wake of the Boston Marathon bombings last month and other incidents when UNH students made a difference in the lives of others.
“We all can find inspiration and role models in the people sitting next to us,” said commencement speaker Lt. Gen. Mary Legere, a 1982 UNH graduate and the U.S. Army’s deputy chief of staff of intelligence.
Legere was talking about graduating senior Cameron Lyle of Plaistow and others from the university who stepped up in a time of need. They included UNH director of athletic training Jon Dana and students Brandon Hall and Ashlei Brock, marathon volunteers who helped bombing victims.
Lyle, a member of the UNH men’s track team, recently received national attention when he sacrificed the rest of his college athletic career to donate bone marrow to help save the life of a leukemia patient he didn’t know.
The former Timberlane Regional High School student — a one-in-5-million marrow donor match — also received accolades from UNH president Mark Huddleston during the nearly three-hour ceremony.
Huddleston told of how after Lyle’s surgery, the modest shot put star, who could bench press hundreds of pounds, wouldn’t be able to lift anything heavier than a bag of groceries for weeks.
“The moving part of the story for me is not that Cameron decided to be that donor and to save that life,” Huddleston said. “The moving part is that he genuinely doesn’t understand why anyone would be surprised by his decision.”