2014 Commencement Speech

Class of 2014

President McRobbie, Sergio Marchionne, Trustees, honored guests, family and friends, it is an honor and a privilege to introduce you to the 599 members of the class of 2014. The students represent 31 Indiana counties, nine states, and nine

different countries. We will recognize our first graduates from our new Master of Science program in nursing.

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 that 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. Each student matters here.

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.

Maria Pineda is the first person in her family to earn a college degree. She has earned a degree in nursing. Her family moved to Logansport, Indiana from El Salvador. She is the third of four children. Her whole family is here today, and she shared that it will be an emotional day, especially for her parents. Her mother attended school through the third grade and her father has a seventh-grade education. She has inspired her siblings to complete their degrees. Older sister, Marta is an education major at IUPUI, her other sister hopes to complete her degree in criminal justice, and her ten-year-old brother now wants to go to college because she did. She shared, “Women are more independent here, and have careers, and can choose to be something besides a housewife. We have really embraced that. We can better our lives, and have a better quality of life than we would have had in El Salvador.” I know there are many more students who are the first in their families to graduate will you please stand and join Maria.

Some students have faced difficult obstacles in their journey. Like LaShanda Thomas, who lost her home when the recent flooding hit Kokomo. Thomas, an adult returning student with a family of eight children will receive a Bachelor’s degree in General Studies and currently works as an instructional paraprofessional for Kokomo Center Schools. She stated, “Hard work pays off. I would encourage anyone to never give up and always follow your dreams, no matter what obstacles are thrown in your way.”

Other students have used this opportunity to take them down a different path in life. Aaron Bird has been in the ROTC Program on campus and in the Army National Guard, while a student at IU Kokomo. He knows that his experiences while a student here have prepared him for his military career. He is off to spend 16 weeks for his basic officer leadership course, before moving to his first duty station in the army.  

David Lapan served six and a half years in the Air Force and three years in the National Guard. He received an associate degree from Ivy Tech and transferred here. Today he is graduating with a BA in English and wants to be a technical writer.

I know there are many veterans graduating today, and I ask that each stand with Aaron and David.

Pamela Plain graduates today with a degree in health sciences. She was named Indiana Intern of the Year from 41 nominees. She earned the recognition for organizing a breast tissue donation event in Kenya, as an intern for the Komen Tissue Bank at the IU Simon Cancer Center. Will all students who have completed an internship or practicum, please stand?

We also have more students this year that pushed hard to complete their degrees in four 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. Talal Al Hamad and Arwa Albawardi are the first graduates from a cohort of students who came to us from Saudi Arabia to complete our MBA program. Aaron True traveled to Turkey with a business class. Would all of our international students and/or students who have traveled overseas while in school please stand?

IU Kokomo is also a steppingstone to many more dreams and goals. This fall several students will enter graduate school, Stephen Green will study Student Affairs at Colorado State University, Jesse Sopher will enter the Ph.D. program at Ball State in English, and Joshua Holda is graduating with a degree in chemical biology and will be attending the Logan University College of Chiropractic. I know there are many more students headed to graduate or professional schools, will you please stand too?

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 2014.