OGDEN -- The mortarboard caps didn't add any real height, but somehow, members of Weber State University's 2011 graduating class seemed to stand 10 feet tall.
Spirits were high at Friday's commencement, and the graduating class seemed optimistic about the future.
"The economy is improving," said Georgia Tabish, 45, a former Ogden resident who now lives in Washington state. Tabish returned for her accounting diploma.
"It's a better time to graduate now than it has been for the past few years," she said. "It's a time when employers are looking for people with degrees. I'm employed now because of this degree."
Adam Shepherd, 27, of West Haven, earned his bachelor's degree in applied mathematics.
"I'm excited it's finally over," he said of his schooling. "I found a job, so I feel good about the future, and the job was my incentive to finish my degree."
Caysie Widdison, 22, of Syracuse, earned a degree in health promotions, physical education and coaching.
"It's not set in stone, but I have a job offer," Widdison said. "My friends have jobs, too."
Soon-to-be graduates lined the outer halls of the Dee Events Center and entered the auditorium on cue as music played and the audience and educators stood.
Proud parents flashed cameras as if rock stars had entered the room.
WSU officials estimated the size of the graduating class at more than 3,600 students.
University President F. Ann Millner asked students to stand if they were the first in their families to graduate. Most stood.
She asked who had worked full- or part-time during school. Nearly all stood.
Former Utah Gov. Michael O. Leavitt gave the address at the school's 137th commencement.
Leavitt, who was awarded an honorary doctorate of humanities, congratulated students and told them their future would be determined by the decisions they make.
"We all make life-changing decisions, and these decisions, more than our circumstances, change our life," he said.
Leavitt told students that, in spring 2003, when he was considering whether to accept the post as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency in the George W. Bush administration, he went through a five-step decision-making process that they might find helpful.
Leavitt said he wrote himself a memo. Putting the question in writing helped clarify it in his mind, he said.
Step two was to identify his uncertainties and shrink them. Leavitt asked family members how they felt about a move to Washington, D.C. He checked his own list of goals for Utah, to see what was left to accomplish.
Step three was examining his biases. Leavitt advised graduates to consider their emotional state because decisions made when a person is angry, depressed or desperate often are wrong.
Step four was to seek counsel from trusted friends, to gain additional perspective.
And step five was to decide when to decide. Leavitt said, as a governor appointing judges, it gave him greater peace to sleep on the issue and announce in the morning. He rarely changed his mind about an appointment, but he always felt better about decisions if he gave them the proper time.
Leavitt also got a laugh by sharing one of his embarrassing moments.
He was rushing between appointments and was in the back of a dark-windowed limo, changing from business attire into golf clothes as friends waited. Just as he got his trousers off, the president called, Leavitt said.
"It's not exactly the situation one expects when the president of the United States calls."