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Blue and gold balloons rained from the ceiling of the Brick Breeden Fieldhouse on Saturday morning as Montana State University welcomed its newest crop of graduates.

Spring commencement was, as it always is, a joyous affair. The Brick was packed to the roof with families and loved ones cheering on the roughly 2,000 grads below.

“You now belong to the impressive roster of Montana State alumni,” said Kerry Hanson, vice president of alumni relations. “Being a Bobcat is not just for a few years in college, it is a lifetime adventure.”

In an annual tradition, the university honored the classes from 1948, 1958 and 1968, a healthy group in the front row. Legendary football player and coach Sonny Holland was also in attendance.

“When you walked across the stage in 1948, you probably weren’t thinking about where you would be in 2018. But here you are,” said professor Bob Rydell, who introduced the classes.

Saturday’s ceremony recognized two honorary degree recipients: classical music connoisseur and radio host Martin Goldsmith and actor Bill Pullman.

Pullman, who has starred in a handful of critically acclaimed films, including “Sleepless in Seattle” and “Spaceballs,” was the director of Montana Shakespeare in the Parks for several years in addition to serving as an adjunct faculty member at MSU.

“This university is a beacon of how citizens feel about higher learning. I’m very grateful for what it gave me,” Pullman said.

In his speech to graduates, Pullman compared the graduation process to an airline flight, at one point pulling a safety information booklet from his pocket to drive home the metaphor.

“There’s probably some fear for your future; for our future. There will be pressures on you, but before acting, be sure to take a breath,” he said.

In a light-hearted tribute to the university’s 125th anniversary celebrations, MSU will be sending the names of the 2018 graduates into space, etched on a bread-loaf sized research satellite.

“The universe is our campus and you are literally out of this world,” joked MSU President Waded Cruzado.

Amidst the celebration there was a single somber note: The university awarded Inge Perkins, the Bozeman native who died in an avalanche last fall, with a posthumous degree in mathematics. Perkins had been studying to be a math teacher before her death last October. Her father, Steve Perkins, a professor in the Department of Civil Engineering, was on hand to accept the degree.

After the ceremony, the new graduates milled around outside the Brick, accepting hugs, flowers and congratulations.

“I’m just excited,” said Marcos Aguilar, who received a degree in accounting. The 24-year-old plans to work for his family’s trucking company in eastern Montana.

“It was a great experience, but I’m excited to go to work and use my degree,” Aguilar said.

But it was Pullman who perhaps gave the best send off, co-opting a line from the 1996 thriller “Independence Day” in which he plays the U.S. president defiant in the face of alien invasion and imminent global destruction.

“You will not go quietly into this night,” Pullman told the new alumni. “Today is your graduation day.”

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Kendall can be reached at 406-582-2651 or lkendall@dailychronicle.com. He is on Twitter at @lewdak

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