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Logan • The graduates who were awarded 4,464 degrees at Utah State University's 125th commencement ceremony this weekend achieved this goal through a series of small, systematic steps. By analogy, undergraduates in caps and gowns took similar steps across the Logan campus early Saturday morning under a sky that was at times cloudy, then bright.
For a few students, though, extraordinary experiences have marked the way.
Victor Rex Carlson, 24, the USU College of Science valedictorian, never mentioned one such event when he gave his commencement speech Saturday. Yet Carlson told The Salt Lake Tribune on Friday that the goal of his life came into clear focus on New Year's Eve when he and his father, Morgan Carlson of North Logan, helped rescue three children in a car accident in Logan Canyon.
Victor Carlson, who has been a member of the Cache County Search and Rescue team since March 2010, was one of nearly a dozen passersby who were called heroes for wading into the frigid water, flipping a Honda Accord, extracting the trapped children and resuscitating them.
When Carlson carried the youngest victim, Baylor Andersen, to the shore of the Logan River, the 4-year-old wasn't breathing and his heart wasn't beating.
"As I reflect on it, I did feel confident that we were going to have a positive outcome," Carlson said. "It seems more and more like a dream as time passes."
Carlson, who appeared on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" and "Good Morning America," said the true reward was the gratitude of Roger Andersen, the driver of that vehicle whose two children and a friend were saved.
As one who enjoys the thrills that come from snow skiing, rock climbing, caving and mountain biking, Carlson said the exhilaration he felt that moment, when Baylor finally responded after receiving the Heimlich maneuver, altered the biology major.
"This has sparked a desire. It was a moment that changed the rest of my life," Carlson said.
He will enter Thomas Jefferson University's Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia this fall in a quest to become an emergency medical doctor.
Carlson told his classmates that they can all enjoy success through steady and consistent effort.
"It is through building that we find the greatest fulfillment and satisfaction," he said. "The moment that we stop building, life loses purpose and passion."
Eric Greitens, humanitarian, best-selling author, documentary photographer and Navy SEAL, told the graduates to use their talents, energies and gifts to be of service to something larger than themselves.
"Life is about getting it right one day at a time," Greitens said. "What will make your life meaningful is devoting yourself to things that are enjoyable to you and are needed by others."
USU President Stan Albrecht praised the class for achievements, including building homes, schools and hospitals in poverty-ridden countries in Africa, Latin America and South Asia and working with children orphaned by war.
"Your accomplishments give me much hope, and your basic goodness assures me that our future is in good hands," Albrecht said.
USU graduates for the class of 2012 were awarded 3,393 bachelor's degrees, 947 master's, 117 doctorates and seven educational specialties. Albrecht also awarded honorary doctorates to four distinguished people: Norah Abdullah Al-Faiz, Saudi Arabian vice minister for girls' education; Quentin L. Cook, former attorney and current member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; Lars P. Hansen, world-renowned economist; and U.S. beef industry leader John R. Miller, of Hyrum.
Aggies by the numbers
Number of degrees • 4,464
Bachelor's • 3,393
Master's • 947
Doctorate • 117
Education specialists • 7
Female • 2,103
Male • 1,714
Annual undergraduate resident tuition and fees (25 credits) 2011-12 • $4,004.23
Foreign countries • 20 (China, 159. Dominican Republic, 12. Canada, 8)
U.S. states • 46
Utah counties • 29
College of Agriculture • Janae Decker
Jon M. Huntsman School of Business • Jill Heather Aoki
Caine College of the Arts • Sally Bigelow Rydalch
College of Humanities and Social Sciences • Tasha Li Salisbury
College of Natural Resources • Brooke Evans
Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services • Aubree Lewis Keate
College of Engineering • Brock D. Wiberg
College of Science • Victor Rex Carlson
Source: Utah State University