2013 Commencement Speech :: Indiana University Kokomo

Class of 2013

Vice President Applegate, Trustees, honored guests, family, and friends it is an honor and a privilege to introduce you to the 547 members of the class of 2013. 

As you will hear today, our students have come from very different backgrounds with very different goals and very different stories, but what I have noticed is each and every one of them brought to campus an adventurous, determined spirit. They saw our campus as a place of tremendous opportunity and hope to pursue a better life. The faculty and staff, in turn, made a commitment to each student that they would support them in their journey no matter what path it would take. 

So every hour, every day, students from all walks of life engaged in the same critical work with faculty – learning and discovering, turning information into action and tangible change so when they leave us today, we know they are prepared to make a difference in this region.

Graduates, as I look at each and every one of you, I am inspired by your personal stories and your successful journeys. I wish I had time to share everyone’s story, but I know the few stories that I will share will embody many of you.

Shane Simmons and Lisa Ortega are the first persons in their family to earn a college degree. Shane is moving on to graduate school in journalism, and Lisa has been accepted into the management training program at Sam’s Club. I know there are many more students who are the first in their families to graduate; will you please stand and join Shane and Lisa?

Some students have faced difficult obstacles in their journey. Like Nick Sears, whom recently battled a rare form of cancer with only two classes left to complete his degree. Through his own determination and perseverance and the care and concern of his professors, he walks across the stage today cancer free. Or Cynthia Brown, who suffers from severe dyslexia, yet as a single parent is graduating as the outstanding student in general studies.

Other students have used this opportunity to take them down a different path in life. Shawn Owings was one of the first women to be on the front lines in Iraq as an Army medic for seven years. She shared that it was a struggle, but eventually, she gained the trust and respect of the men in her unit and became one of them. Now she will use her nursing degree to give back to our military by working in a veteran’s hospital. I know there are many veterans graduating today, and I ask that each stand with Shawn.

We graduate our first athlete, as many of you know Indiana University Kokomo is now a member of the NAIA. Jacob Foust is graduating today, and he played basketball for the Cougars. We also have more students this year that pushed hard to complete their degrees in 4 years. Would those students please rise? We have many international students who are graduating today, they come from nine different countries and we have many of our students who have traveled and studied overseas. Giada Dalla Pozza is from Italy; she began at Ivy Tech and is planning to continue her education in pharmacy or medicine. She is proud to welcome her parents here today from Italy. Would all of our international students and or students who have traveled internationally while in school please stand?

IU Kokomo is also a steppingstone to many more dreams and goals. This fall Jordan Slusher will attend the IU law school, Joshua Turner will enter graduate school in mathematics, Joshua Holley will enter the IU medical school, and  Alicia Dellen, a nursing graduate, will release her first album after studying classical piano with Tamara Orlovsky, a Russian concert pianist. All those who are headed to graduate or professional schools please stand.

As I stated earlier, I wish I could share more stories, because you would continue to be impressed. Today our graduates will receive an Indiana University diploma. As you can see, all of our students have worked hard to earn this prestigious degree that commands respect and instills pride.

Graduates on behalf of all of us, we couldn’t be more proud. Best wishes to you, Class of 2013.