YONGSAN GARRISON, Republic of Korea - University of Maryland University College- Asia honored its graduates April 26 at its annual commencement ceremony at Seoul American High School auditorium.

Among the 53 who graduated, nine earned associate's degrees, 41 bachelor's degrees and three master's degrees.

"This is one of the most significant milestones in your life," said Dr. Susan C. Aldridge, UMUC president, in her opening speech. "UMUC is proud to be part of this achievement."

During his congratulatory speech, Command Sgt. Major Ralph J. Rusch, U.S. Army Garrison-Yongsan command sergeant major, challenged graduates to continue their pursuit for knowledge.

"This is a great achievement," he said. "But you have a long way to go, and the reason why you have a long way to go is because you are now in a situation to want more knowledge."

Maj. Gen. John W. Morgan III, commanding general of the 2nd Infantry Division, presided over the ceremony.

"Education is the key to success," he told the graduates. "Once you are educated, it's very hard for others to keep you from succeeding."

Aldridge oversaw the conferring of degrees as she personally handed diplomas to each student. After receiving their diplomas, the graduates adjusted the strings on their hats to the right, marking the end of the graduation ceremony.

"It means the world to any candidate to graduate," said Master Sgt. Deborah Gibson of the 175th Financial Management Center. "Knowledge is power and the only way you are going to have power is to continue to learn."

Sgt. 1st Class Anthony C. Johnson, who received an associate's degree, shared the excitement.
"I never graduated across a stage," he said. "It felt really good. Education is something you get to keep. No one can take it away from you."

Though exuberance had filled the auditorium, for one family the graduation ceremony was bittersweet.

Michelle S. Bremer and her daughter, Sarah Bremer, received the diploma for William F. Bremer. Bremer, 53, finished a bachelor's degree before dying of lung cancer April 1.

"I'm so proud of my husband," Michelle said. "He was very well aware of his situation. But he never let his illness get in the way of his everyday life and the goals he had set."