There's no limit to where curiosity and a thirst for adventure can take you, speakers Deborah Wai Kapohe and Denise L'Estrange-Corbet told Whanganui UCOL graduates..
More than 300 students put gowns on to collect certificates, diplomas or degrees in two ceremonies at the Prince Edward Auditorium in Wanganui on Thursday.
The morning session was for business, hairdressing and other students while the biggest contingent came from catering (71 students) and business and computing (29).
Wanganui eye health campaigner Mike Webber received a UCOL Council Honours Award there, for his contributions to the community.
The afternoon session was held for nursing, fine arts, fashion and other students.
There were 22 Bachelor of Nursing graduates - one of the largest groups.
Twenty of them already have jobs - mainly with Whanganui District Health Board.
Fifteen graduates also received their Diplomas in Enrolled Nursing - a new course at Whanganui UCOL.
There were also 15 Bachelor of Fashion graduates and eight Bachelor of Fine Arts graduates.
The guest speaker was Wanganui District Council arts co-ordinator Deborah Wai Kapohe, who talked about her adventures in education.
Her childhood had its challenges, she said, because she was browner than most of her peers and was brought up by her Pakeha mother in Invercargill.
At 9, she first heard Beethoven, and her world turned from dull grey to glorious through the "passionate but structured" music.
By 14, she said she was uncontrollable at school, except for her interest in music.
She said she wagged classes to practise in the music rooms and was allowed to go to Otago University weekly for tuition. Then it was off to university, to study classical guitar and Italian.
She fell in love with her Italian professor and stayed in Italy until she was just beginning to dream in Italian. Then a combination of curiosity and free education got her two further degrees, in music and law.
"This is where education can lead you. May this be the beginning of a wonderful journey," she told the graduates.
Like Mr Webber, Denise L'Estrange-Corbet was given a UCOL Council Honours Award for her contribution to the community. She's the co-founder of WORLD, the country's most progressive fashion label.
It has 10 New Zealand stores and shows work during fashion weeks in six countries.
Ms L'Estrange-Corbet also lectures and writes on fashion and business and supports a string of charities.
She said she was delighted to receive the award, because her previous biggest academic achievements were lifesaving badges gained by doggedly swimming round and round the school pool. "I'm from an extended family of underachievers and criminals who see success as being above your station," she said.
But she encouraged the graduates to aim high.
"Nothing is impossible, and everything has a consequence."
In her closing remarks, UCOL deputy chief executive Clare Crawley choked back tears as she spoke of fashion student Dearna McLauchlin, who died recently after collapsing in a Palmerston North bar. Ms McLauchlin's brother was at the ceremony to accept her qualification.