School of Mines holds graduation ceremony, honors two distinguished guests

RAPID CITY, S.D.– Graduation season has arrived in the Black Hills!

Students At The Graduation CeremonyIn Rapid City, the School of Mines honored more than 300 graduates at The Monument Saturday morning.

The ceremony included honors for two area legends– former Rapid City Mayor Don Barnett, who oversaw the region’s recovery from the 1972 flood, and Olympian Billy Mills, who delivered the commencement address.

“Today belongs to you,” Mills addressed the students. “Yesterday was just a memory.”

Mills is a native of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, who became a track star in high school and college before winning, to this day, the only American gold medal in the 10,000 meter race during the 1964 Olympics.

He co-founded the Running Strong For American Indian Youth Organization, which helps empower Native American youth and families.

“The students individually, they had their challenges in life,” he said. “I had mine. But my resilience, their resilience, allowed us to find, somewhere within us, the brilliance. And the brilliance of it, that passion that’s almost God-given.”

Former Rapid City Mayor Don Barnett was elected at the age of 28, taking on the challenge of facing and picking up the pieces of the 1972 Black Hills Flash Flood.

During his time in office, he and city officials led the way for the arrival of key structures such as the Dahl Arts Center and the Civic Center — now known as The Monument.

Barnett was honored and surprised to have received the honor, but could not take the credit lightly.

“I feel that I’m representing the civil servants in Rapid City, the National Guardsmen, the Air Force personnel, and so many people more who never got their name in the paper, but were heroes during the disaster.”

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