Vet returns for NAU commencement after 40 years

Doug Vinnes

Most graduates at Northern Arizona University’s fall commencement will toss their caps to the future, but Doug Vinnes will let his soar for the past.

Vinnes, 62, earned a bachelor’s degree in education from NAU in 1969, but weeks before graduation ceremonies, he was drafted through a lottery system into the Army.

“I got my draft notice and while my graduating class went to commencement, I was on my way to Fort Bliss in Texas to report as a physical activity specialist at the hospital,” Vinnes says. “I remember telling my parents to read my degree certificate to me word for word over the phone because it was sent to my home address in Iowa.”

2,200 to receive diplomas
during fall ’09 commencement

Nearly 2,200 Northern Arizona University students will receive their diplomas during fall 2009 commencement exercises Dec. 11 in the Walkup Skydome.

The ceremony for colleges of Arts and Letters; Business; Engineering, Forestry and Natural Sciences; and Social and Behavioral Sciences; the Master of Administration; and the Yuma branch campus will begin at 10 a.m. The ceremony for colleges of Education and Health and Human Services will start at 3 p.m.

Robert L. Millis, director emeritus of Lowell Observatory, and James C. Ramos, chairman of the San Manuel Band of Serrano Mission Indians, will be awarded honorary degrees of humane letters. Millis will speak the earlier ceremony while Ramos will address students in the afternoon.

Commencement exercises will be aired live on NPG Cable Channel 4 and University House Channel 9411 on the Dish Network and will bewebstreamed.

Vinnes will travel from his home near Dallas to join NAU’s 2,200 graduates to celebrate their educational achievements during the university’s Dec. 11 commencement.

“I came across an article in the Dallas newspaper about a vet going back to receive his diploma, and I said to myself, ‘Why can’t I go to the graduating ceremony that I missed at NAU?’” Vinnes says.

Vinnes, who will serve as the Vietnam Veteran era standard bearer during the exercise, says because of his NAU education, he will be as enthusiastic at the 2009 ceremony as he would have been at the 1969 commencement exercises.

“I can look back at my education at NAU knowing that I have the foundation in the mental, physical and spiritual faculties to handle anything I attempt to do,” Vinnes says. “I can be grateful I have had the opportunity to work at major corporations and one of the largest school districts in this nation.”

Vinnes career highlights include working for 10 years as a travel consultant for American Airlines and as an elementary school teacher for the Dallas Independent School District. He continues to substitute teach in Garland, Texas.

Neil Goodell, director for NAU Alumni Relations, says Vinnes return is acknowledgement of “the long-term commitment demonstrated by our alumni community. This also serves to cap off NAU’s yearlong recognition of our alumni veterans and military personnel. We are truly looking forward to Doug’s return to campus for commencement.”