Congratulations Class of 2024!

Kevin Uyekawa kicked off Father’s Day weekend at the 2024 June All-Campus Commencement celebration, where he accepted a Bachelor of Science diploma in front of his 6-year-old son and his own father.

“It’s kind of nice that it’s all happening at the same time,” said Uyekawa, who earned a 3.97 GPA as a full-time mechanical engineering student while juggling a 25-hour a week paid internship and parenting Kaleb as a single dad.

Kevin Uyekawa and his 6-year-old son, Kaleb.
Kevin Uyekawa put his gold stole on his son, who looked up and said, “I’m proud of you.”

“It hasn’t really hit me yet; when I don’t have to come back in the fall, that’s when it’s really going to hit,” said Uyekawa, who also received an Outstanding Mechanical Engineering Student Award from the College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

He credited support from his family, EWU faculty and staff members, and a scholarship from the EWURA with helping him reach the finish line.

Uyekawa was among more than 2,100 Eagle graduates who donned caps and gowns to celebrate their accomplishments in front of loved ones. The event was held on June 15 at The Podium in downtown Spokane.

Three ceremonies spread throughout the day, and staffed in part by 75 faculty and staff volunteers, honored master’s and bachelor’s degree graduates from Eastern’s four academic colleges.

President Shari McMahan and Provost Jonathan Anderson offered congratulations and words of wisdom at each of the events, with 130 faculty members there throughout the day to support and congratulate students. As a wrap for each ceremony, Kelsey Hatch-Brecek welcomed graduates to the EWU alumni family.

In addition to celebrating the accomplishments of students, the ceremonies honored Stuart Steiner, faculty member and founder and director of EWU’s Center for Network Computing, with the Trustees’ Medal, the university’s highest form of recognition for faculty achievement. The events, detailed in the online 2024 Commencement guide, also marked the bestowal of emeritus status upon several retired faculty members.

In addition, Carol Evans, former chairwoman of the Spokane Tribal Business Council, received an honorary doctorate from EWU in recognition of her outstanding contributions to her community, her tribe and the Pacific Northwest region. [Earlier in the day, Evans own daughter graduated from EWU with a Master of Public Health degree.]

In her remarks, Evans, an alumna, offered an inspirational message to students. It included sharing her own story of overcoming personal hardship, and encouraging graduates who’d experienced trauma to seek help. The heartfelt speech resonated with the Class of 2024, who stood in unison to give Evans a standing ovation.

Throughout the day, graduates expressed gratitude for people who’d supported their journey as Eagles.

Angela Prisila Mendoza Barrios celebrates graduation with her mother, Natividad Barrios.
Angela Prisila Mendoza Barrios celebrating graduation with her mother, Natividad Barrios.

Angela Prisila Mendoza Barrios, a 22-year-old from Mabton, Washington, participated in the early afternoon commencement. She was delighted to find that a large group of family members had made the 3-hour drive to watch her become the first person in the family to earn a college degree.

“I’m super grateful that they were able to come here to support me,” said Mendoza Barrios, who earned a bachelor’s degree in children’s studies and plans to pursue a graduate degree to become a child life specialist.

Her family not only made the trip to Spokane, they brought musicians to play a favorite song that is popular in Mexico. “As soon as they start playing it, my family goes crazy because that is, like, our hometown song,” she said.

Kaileh Fox-Brown was grateful to have her grandmother, Carol Brown, at commencement.
Kaileh Fox-Brown enjoyed having her grandmother, Carol Brown, at commencement.

Kaileh Fox-Brown, a 24-year-old who earned a bachelor’s degree in finance, was thrilled to have her grandmother, Carol Brown, on hand to offer congratulations. “I’m extremely blessed and want to put my knowledge to use,” said Fox-Brown, who plans to pursue a career as a financial analyst or advisor, and perhaps a business owner.

Waylon Wilson, 20, of Tonasket, Washington, earned a bachelor’s degree in recreation and tourism management. Wilson, who works summers for the U.S. Forest Service, said he was mostly just relieved that he was able to finish up his capstone project on time. The project explored the advantages and disadvantages of the Forest Service’s approach to recreation management.

“Once we got that done, the world was off our shoulders and we were ready to graduate,” said Wilson, who has lined up a position with the Forest Service and hopes to get into search and rescue work.

Waylon Wilson’s parents, Erica and Robert, were there to congratulate their son.

For Irie Browning, a 28-year-old from Spokane, graduation ends one chapter and begins another. Browning, a McNair Scholar and recipient of the Francis B. Huston Award, earned her bachelor’s degree in philosophy. She begins graduate studies at the University of Oregon this fall.

“It feels really good,” said Browning. “It’s kind of bittersweet. I’m really sad to be leaving Eastern, but it’s so cool to get to the end of it here.”


Irie Browning said her philosophy professors inspired a passion for thinking about thinking.

**An extensive gallery of commencement photos taken by EWU photographer Luke Kenneally are available on Flikr.