Bob Phares, Katie Cornelio speaking Friday at UNK spring commencement

WHAT: UNK Spring Commencement
WHEN: 10 a.m. Friday, May 17
WHERE: UNK Health and Sports Center
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LIVE BROADCAST: Watch commencement live at


KEARNEY – The University of Nebraska at Kearney will host its spring commencement 10 a.m. Friday at the Health and Sports Center on campus.

Chancellor Doug Kristensen will confer degrees for 702 graduate and undergraduate students during the ceremony and present the Ron and Carol Cope Cornerstone of Excellence Award to Michael Yanney and Tami and Jerry Hellman.

Bob Phares, a UNK alumnus and regent emeritus, will deliver the keynote address.

Born in Atlantic, Iowa, and raised in North Platte, Phares graduated with honors from UNK in 1962 with a degree in business administration. His dedication to service started early when he was elected mayor of North Platte at the age of 28. That dedication has continued throughout his lifetime and includes 16 years as a member of the University of Nebraska Board of Regents. He served as board chair three times and was awarded regent emeritus status in 2022.

A past president of the League of Nebraska Municipalities, Phares was also a member of the NU President’s Advisory Council and he’s been involved with Great Plains Regional Medical Center for more than 20 years, including eight years as chairman of the board. Now semi-retired, he was president and owner of Phares Financial Services in North Platte.

Phares has received the UNK Distinguished Service Award, Outstanding Alumni Award and College of Business and Technology Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award.

The student speaker is Katie Cornelio of Monument, Colorado, who graduates summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in social science education.

Cornelio was a three-year letterwinner and co-captain for the UNK swim and dive team. She was also part of the Teacher Scholars Academy, Chancellor’s Ambassadors, Gamma Phi Beta sorority, Order of Omega honor society and Teachmates, Loper Leaders and Loper Pals mentorship programs. Cornelio participated in undergraduate research and worked as a campus visit assistant.

She’ll continue her education by pursuing a Master of Arts in Teaching at Duke University.

Rob Schafer, chair of the NU Board of Regents, will also address the graduates. The national anthem will be performed by Sadie Uhing of Hartington, who graduates magna cum laude with bachelor’s degrees in music education and music performance.

Those who are unable to attend in person may watch the ceremony via livestream on UNK’s website. A recording can also be viewed later on the website.


Commencement attendees are encouraged to park in the lots west of the Health and Sports Center. Visitors with handicap permits can park east of the Health and Sports Center. Those transporting a handicapped person will have access to drop off the individual on the east side of the complex but will need to move their vehicle to another lot.

Visitors with wheelchairs can sit in the corner seating sections on the main floor of the Health and Sports Center or use the elevator in the northeast corner of the building to sit in the designated section on the arena floor.

Doors open at 8 a.m.


Guests should expect a visual inspection of person, bags and clothing capable of concealing prohibited items. Small clutch purses and wallets are preferred at entry and will expedite inspection.


For safety reasons, prohibited items include but are not limited to:

  • Any type of weapon, fake weapon or object resembling a weapon. This includes firearms, knives, tasers, chains and any item deemed to compromise public safety.
  • Alcohol, drugs, illegal substances, vaporizing pens/E-cigs or any paraphernalia associated with drug use. The Health and Sports Center is a smoke-free facility.
  • Animals (except service animals).
  • Laser pens/pointers of any type.
  • Noisemakers (including air horns, cowbells or whistles).

If a prohibited item is revealed during a search, patrons may dispose of the item or they may return the item to their vehicle. The UNK Health and Sports Center does not safeguard any personal belongings or items of any type.