DURHAM — University of New Hampshire graduates learned that it was OK to fail.
More than 2,500 students attended the 141st commencement at UNH yesterday, as keynote speaker David Cote, Class of 1976, told students not to be afraid to take risks.
"Be willing to take a chance," he said. "Successful people have failures — sometimes spectacularly embarrassing ones — but they learn from it and move on to the next success."
Cote is the CEO of Honeywell International, a company that makes everything from thermostats to aerospace systems. The university awarded him an honorary degree yesterday.
"There is a certain irony in the receipt of this honor though, because it took me six years to complete a four-year degree," he said.
He told the story of how he quit college after just two years to go into commercial fishing in Maine. But he returned to school and completed his degree after realizing college was the path to success.
And that is a message many students were glad to hear.
Emily DiLorenzo of Derry graduated with two of her close friends from Pinkerton Academy, Kelsey Parrillo and Sara McGrath of Hampstead. All plan to teach.
"It's surreal that I'm graduating, but I'm ready," she said. "I'll be teaching English in South Korea. I was adopted from Korea, so it's kind of like going home."
McGrath majored in studio art and minored in education. She hopes to be an art teacher.
"I had a really solid group of friends in these gals," she said. "I am thinking about maybe trying to be a substitute teacher in Hampstead or Timberlane and stay at home for a while to save money."
Parrillo took five years to get an accelerated master's in education and also hopes to stay in New England to teach.